Wildcats Begin Championship Season at Pac-10 Meet
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 25, 1999
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The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams will compete in the first of their three "championship" style meets this weekend at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships in Long Beach, Calif. The prelude to the NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships takes place at El Dorado Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 30. The men's 8,000m race begins at 11 a.m., and women's 5,000m race follows at noon.

Who's Going?: Competing for the Arizona women (No. 15 in the nation) will be: Mandee Ash, Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty, Katrin Engelen, Kristen Parrish and Maia Wright. The men (No. 6) will field a team of: Mike Cramer, Micheil Jones, David Lopez, Jeremy Lyon, Brent Pederson, Tom Prindiville, and Steve Smith. Both Arizona teams will face some of the top teams in the nation, as the Pac-10 is the toughest top-to-bottom conference in the country.

Going Polling: The Arizona men are ranked No. 6 in this week's MONDO Cross Country poll. The Wildcat women dropped out of this week's rankings after being No. 15 for two straight weeks.

On the women's side: Sophomore Tara Chaplin steps into the top slot in the Arizona lineup this season after an excellent freshman season as the No. 2 runner on the squad. Sophomore Erin Doherty and junior Katrin Engelen have been the Wildcats' No. 2 and 3 runners this year, Sophomore Jennifer Burris, freshmen Kimberly Bates and Mandee Ash and senior Maia Wright give the Wildcats quality depth at the bottom of their order. Senior Kristen Parrish is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in her right leg.

And for the men: Senior Micheil Jones has stepped into the No. 1 slot in the men's lineup, and proven to be one of the best runners in the nation this year. Junior David Lopez and sophomore Steve Smith have been solid in the No. 2 and 3 spots for the Wildcats. Seniors Jeremy Lyon and Brent Pedersen lead a core of returners including senior Mike White, and sophomores Tom Prindiville and Mike Cramer have also been part of a tight Arizona pack this season.

Head Coach Dave Murray: Murray is the dean of coaches at UA, as he is entering his 33nd year. He has coached three NCAA Cross Country champions and more than 100 All-Americans in Track and Field and Cross Country.

Last Meet: The Wildcat men finished third at the NCAA Pre-Meet, led by senior Micheil Jones' fifth place effort. The women's team was also led by a fifth place finish by Tara Chaplin. However, the Arizona women finished 19th at the meet..

In Review: The Arizona men finished second, while the women were seventh at the Stanford Invitational on Oct. 2. Micheil Jones took home the men's title, and Tara Chaplin was the women's top finisher in 11th... The Arizona men and women both took home the titles at the Aztec Invitational, hosted by San Diego State, on Sept. 18. The men were led by Micheil Jones, who won his second straight race, while Tara Chaplin won the race on the women's side... The Arizona men's team won the team title at the Asics/UC-Irvine Invitational in Huntington Beach, Calif. The Wildcat women finished second to Arizona State at the meet. Individually, Arizona took home both titles, as Micheil Jones and Tara Chaplin won the first cross country races of their Arizona careers. Jones outdistanced himself from the men's field, winning the 8,000m event in 24:35.20. Chaplin won a tighter race, finishing the 5,000m course in 17:32.10. The Arizona men finished in a tight pack after Jones, with David Lopez, Steve Smith and Brent Pedersen finishing seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Tom Prindiville finished 11th. For the women, Katrin Engelen was 10th, Kristen Parrish was 13th, Erin Doherty was 20th and Kimberly Bates was 25th.

No Ordinary Jones: Senior Micheil Jones entered the season with the difficult task of replacing last year's No. 1 runner, Abdi Abdirahman, who was one of the best distance runners in UA history. Jones, however, has proved that he is quite capable himself. This year, Jones has captured the individual titles at his first three races. On Oct. 2 at the Stanford Invitational, Jones won the race in 24:19, outkicking the field by over 80 meters. He also won at the Asics/UCI Invitational and the Aztec Invitational. During the track and field season, he showed that he has developed into a fine distance runner, running 13:52.46 in the 5,000m at the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford. His time ranks No. 9 in UA history, and it qualified him to run at the NCAA Championships where he finished 20th. Jones also has very good speed, which he showed by finishing third in the 1,500m at the Pac-10 Championships after winning his qualifying heat at the meet.

Sophomore Sensation: Tara Chaplin had one of the best freshmen seasons in UA history last year when she competed in five NCAA Championship events - '98 XC, '99 Indoor 3,000m and 5,000m, and '99 Outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m. She finished fourth in UA's first four cross country meets of the season, behind only teammate Amy Skieresz. Chaplin finished 12th at the Pac-10 Championshps, 14th at the NCAA West Regional and 64th at the NCAA Championships. During the track and field season, Chaplin earned two All-America honors, finishing 10th in the Indoor 5,000m and 10th in the Outdoor 10,000m. She also won the Pac-10 title in the 5,000m. Chaplin won the first cross country title of her career, the Asics-UCI Invitational, Sept. 6. It did not take long for her to win her second career title, the following week at the Aztec Invitational.

Murray's Musings: "This is the start of what I call our 'championship season.' Each week, the meets get bigger and bigger, starting with the Pac-10 Championships. I don't think that there is any question that there is any rival to our conference because of the depth that we have, top-to-bottom. With Stanford, ourselves, Washington, Oregon and Arizona State, I think that you could have five teams that could finish in the top 15 or 20 in the nation, on the men's side. Stanford is going to be the undisputed favorite going into the meet on both sides. I think that we can beat them (Stanford) on the men's side because we have been running very well lately. If we do what we are capable of at the meet, I think that we will be able to finish second, at worst. Micheil (Jones) has to be one of the favorites going in. Steve Fein of Oregon, Jonathan Riley of Stanford and Micheil are three of the best in the nation, and they should make it a great race. We are not as strong on the women's side as we have been in years' past. Without Kristen (Parsish, who is out with a stress fracture in her leg), we are going to be running a very young team. However, if we run up to what we are capable of, I think that we will be in the top four. The course does not have abump on it, so I think that it is going to favor the speed runners."