Wildcat Cross Country Teams Race for National Titles
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 14, 2000
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The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams culminate their seasons Monday, Nov. 20, at the NCAA Championships on the Iowa State Cross Country Course in Ames, Iowa. The women's 6,000m race gets the meet underway at 11 a.m. (CST), and the men's 10,000m follows at noon. The Wildcat men's team picked up an automatic qualifying bid with a second-place finish at the West Regional last weekend. The women's team earned an at-large bid, on the strength of its win-loss record earlier in the season, after finishing third at the West Regional. Both teams are making their third-straight appearance at the NCAA meet. Runners will feel the chill of the Iowa air as The Weather Channel is forcasting partly cloudy skies and 31-degree highs on race-day.

The Best of the Best: The competition doesn't get any better than this meet, as the best teams in the nation will toe the starting boxes in Ames. Colorado and Stanford are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in both the men's and women's polls. 1999 team champion Arkansas, Providence and Wisconsin round out the top-5 on the men's side, with Arizona not far behind in 8th. Brigham Young, the defending national champion on the women's side, Wisconsin and Arizona State go 3-4-5 in the women's poll, and the Wildcats are 10th entering the meet. Although cross country coaches across the nation vote in the polls throughout the season, they can all be thrown out the window after the meet. The final standings are the only ones that will be remembered.

Champion Chaplin: Wildcat junior Tara Chaplin flew to a win at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships Oct. 28 in Seattle, Wash. Chaplin controlled the race from 1-1/2 miles in and finished in 20:10 on the 6k course. It was the second Pac-10 title of her career. She won the 5,000m on the track as a freshman in 1999.

Last Time Out: The Arizona men recovered from a sluggish third place performance at the Pac-10 Championships to place second behind Stanford at the Nov. 11 NCAA West Regional. The Wildcats nearly knocked off the Cardinal, finishing with 62 points, only four behind Stanford. Junior Tom Prindiville led the team with a third place finish, and all five of Arizona's scorers -- Prindiville, juniors Steve Smith (5th) and Mike Cramer (16th) and seniors David Lopez (18th) and Rick Weis (20th) -- earned all-region honors based on their finishes. The women's team improved on a fifth place finish from a year ago to finish third at the regional. The race was a gut-check for the Arizona women, as only three of its seven runners were heatlthy. Junior Tara Chaplin led the team with a eighth place finish, followed by fellow junior Jennifer Burris in 15th. Senior Katrin Engelen (28th), junior Erin Doherty (35th) and sophomore Kimberly Bates (40th) rounded out the Wildcats' scoring.

Who's Going: Both the men's and the women's teams have developed solid seven-runner lineups this season. Going for the women will be senior Katrin Engelen, juniors Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty and Jennifer Burris, sophomores Kimberly Bates and Nicole Gurnicz, and freshman Beth Hoge. The men's team will send seniors David Lopez and Rick Weis, juniors Mike Cramer, Tom Prindiville and Steve Smith, and freshmen Matt McInvale and Andrew Carlson

For the Women: 2000 Pac-10 Conference champ Tara Chaplin leads a Wildcat team that is deep and talented from the 1-7 spots on the roster this season. Chaplin is a three-time All-American in track and field and returns as one of the top cross country runners in the nation this year. Chaplin has won three meets -- Purdue Invitational, Roy Griak Invitational and the Pac-10 Championships -- this season. Senior Katrin Engelen showed her long-distance strength during the 2000 track and field season, when she qualified for the 10,000m at the NCAA Championships. She has been an excellent No. 2 runner this season, highlighted by a 22nd place finish at the Pre-NCAA meet and an eighth place finish at the Pac-10 Championships. Junior Jennifer Burris ran the best race of her season at the NCAA West Regional, pulling the Wildcats, who were down with several illnesses and injuries, out of a tight spot with her 15th place finish. Junior Erin Doherty ran one of the best races of her collegiate career at the Notre Dame Invitational and is in great shape as the team's No. 3 runner this year. Sophomore Kimberly Bates was a quality No. 5-6 runner last year, but this season she has stepped up to run in the top-4 of the order in each of Arizona's races. Freshman Beth Hoge has acclimated herself well to collegiate competition, running as the team's No. 5 runner early in the season, but she has been slowed of late with a foot injury. Sophomore Nicole Gurnicz transferred from Boise State before the season and has been a great addition to the lineup, finishing 18th as the team's No. 3 runner at the Pac-10 Championships.

And the Men: The greatest asset to the Arizona men's team has been its depth this season. Without one big star for the team to rely on every race, a group of five has emerged as a pack that is capable of running together and finish strong in races. Junior Tom Prindiville, a 1,500m runner on the track, has run the best of his collegiate career this season. He finished 17th at the Roy Griak and 15th at the Notre Dame Invitational, running as the team's No. 2 runner both times. He followed those performances with his best two races ever at the Pac-10 Championships, where he finished fifth, and the West Regional with a third place finish. Junior Mike Cramer has been the team's top runner three times this season, winning the Purdue Invitational, finishing seventh at the Notre Dame Invitational and 11th at the Pre-NCAA Meet. Senior David Lopez was the team's top finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational in 15th and notched an ninth place finish at the Pac-10 Championships. Junior Steve Smith, a steepler on the track, has also been solid for the Wildcats, as evidenced by his fifth place finish at the regional. Senior Rick Weis made huge progress over the summer and has been a good contributor this year as the No. 5 runner. Freshman Matt McInvale was the team's No. 6 runner at the West Regional and his 10,000m strength is expected to help more at the NCAA Championships. Freshman Andrew Carlson has also been solid throughout the season.

Going Polling: Arizona's strong distance heritage is evident again this season as both the men's and women's teams are ranked with the top teams in the nation. The women's team dropped from No. 7 to No. 10 in this week's poll following its third place finish at the NCAA West Regional. The men's team rose two spots to No. 8 after finishing second at the regional.

Pac-10 Championships: Both the Arizona men and women finished third at the Pac-10 Championships in Seattle, Wash., Oct. 28. Junior Tara Chaplin cruised to a win in the women's race, and senior Katrin Engelen also finished in the top-10 with an eighth place finish. Junior Tom Prindiville's fifth place finish was the best of his career at the meet and led the Arizona men on the day. Senior David Lopez placed ninth, while juniors Steve Smith and Mike Cramer finished 11th and 13th, respectively.

Tara Terrific: Junior Tara Chaplin has established herself as one of the top runners in the collegiate arena over the past two years, contending in and winning several races in cross country and track and field. Last year, Chaplin picked up the third All-America honors of her career, finishing fifth in the 5,000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships. As a freshman, the Montpelier, Vt., native earned All-America honors in the indoor 5,000m and outdoor 10,000m. Chaplin won the first two races of the 1999 Cross Country season -- the Asics/UCI Invitational and Aztec Invitational. She also captured the title at the Wildcats' first two races of 2000, winning the Purdue Invitational and Roy Griak Invitational crowns. She then finished 10th at the Pre-NCAA Meet. She then ran away with the Pac-10 title at the conference meet in Seattle.

Depth Charges: The men's team is lacking in the well-defined individual star, but depth is not a problem for the team this season. The Wildcats' top six runners -- seniors David Lopez and Rick Weis, juniors Mike Cramer, Tom Prindiville and Steve Smith and freshman Andrew Carlson -- have shown they all have front-of-the-pack moxy. Cramer won the Purdue Invitational, while Lopez was the team's top finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational. Cramer was again the top finisher for the team at the Notre Dame Invitational in seventh and placed 11th at the Pre-NCAA Meet. Prindiville then showed his talent with a fifth and third place finishes at the Pac-10 Championships and West Regional, respectively.

Arizona Head Coach Dave Murray: The dean of Arizona coaches, Dave Murray (Arizona 65, 68) begins his 34th season as a head coach at Arizona. He has been at the helms of the men's cross country program since 1968, and the women's program has been under his direction since 1976. Murray has also been the head track and field coach since 1982, and is one of the most respected coaches in the nation. Murray has 146 All-Americans to his credit: 106 in track and field, 40 in cross country.

Murray's Musings: "We are very pleased to have both teams at the NCAA Championships again. In this meet, you just have to let them shoot the gun and see where the chips fall. We have run well all year, and I don't expect anything different this week. I think the men ran their best race of the season last week (at the West Regional). Our top five finishers were only 37 seconds apart, which is great for a 10,000-meter race. If we get that kind of a spread at the national championships, then we are going to have a high finish. The women have run really solid all year with last week probably being our most pressure-packed meet with so many people not at their best. Hopefully, everyone will be completely ready to go, as it is just a matter of getting rid of some sicknesses. There are a large number of teams at the meet who we have beaten earlier in the year, so we are looking for a good finish."