The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams travel to San Diego for the Aztec Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 18. Hosted by San Diego State University, the meet will be held at Balboa Park in San Diego. The women's 5k race begins at 8:30 a.m., and the men's 8k follows at 9:30 a.m.
Who's Going?: Competing for the Arizona women will be: Mandee Ash, Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty, Katrin Engelen, Addie Myrick, Kristen Parrish and Maia Wright. The men will field a team of: Mike Cramer, Wade Juntunen, Micheil Jones, David Lopez, Jeremy Lyon, Brent Pederson, Tom Prindiville, Steve Smith and Rick Weis. The Wildcats will compete against teams from San Diego State, UCLA, UC-Irvine, Southern Utah, among other West Coast schools.
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. Senior Kristen Parrish and junior Katrin Engelen will compete for the No. 2 spot in the Wildcats' The Wildcats have several others returning that will fill out the line-up including senior Maia Wright, junior Addie Myrick and sophomores Erin Doherty and Jennifer Burris. Two redshirt freshmen, Mandee Ash and Kimberly Bates, will also vie for spots in the line-up.
And for the men: After three years of good performances, senior Micheil Jones is ready to step into the No. 1 slot for the Wildcats. Junior David Lopez and sophomore Steve Smith ave run well in practices and control runs and will be right behind Jones. Seniors Jeremy Lyon and Brent Pedersen lead a core of returners including senior Mike White, junior Rick Weis and sophomores Mike Cramer and Tom Prindiville. Sophomore Jeff Bray, a transfer from BYU, and freshman Wade Juntunen will also compete for the Wildcats.
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 Week: 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 has 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, is quite capable himself, as he competed as UA's No. 2 runner last season. 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. Jones won the first cross country title of his career, the Asics/UCI Invitational, Sept. 11.
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.
Slew of Seniors: Both the Arizona men's and women's cross country teams have several seniors competing for them this year. The women's team is lead by the veteran experience of Kristen Parrish - who has run in the top three for the past three seasons - and Maia Wright - a fifth-year senior who has added quality depth in the past. On the men's side, Jeremy Lyon and Brent Pedersen give the Wildcats much needed experience. Lyon has shown in both track and cross country that he is a solid runner for the Wildcats, and will be near the top of the line-up this year. Pedersen transferred to UA from Hawai'i Pacific last season and was a solid runner, finishing as the Wildcats' No. 5 runner at the NCAA Championships.
Murray's Musings: "I was very pleased with the way that we ran last weekend (at the Asics/UCI Invitational). We ran a little better on the men's side than I thought that we would this early in the year. We only had 23 seconds separating our No. 1 and No. 5 runners, which is great spacing. We ran a very good team race. On the women's side, Tara ran very well, taking the lead at the beginning of the race and really going with it. The women did not run as strong of a team race as I would have hoped. I thought that for her first (collegiate) race, Kim Bates ran very well, and Erin Doherty had a good performance. We need to continue working on our spacing on the women's side. For the men, I think that this (Aztec Invitational) is going to be a relatively easy race. UCLA is going to be a very formidable challenge for us on the women's side for us. We are going to see a lot of same teams that we saw last week."