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Arizona Cross Country Ready for Another Challenge at Pre-NCAA Invitational
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/09/2000
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The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams will see the 2000 NCAA Championship course for the first time Saturday, Oct. 14 when they race at the Pre-NCAA Invitational in Ames, Iowa. The races will give over 60 teams a chance to see the Iowa State University Cross Country Course where the NCAA meet will be staged Nov. 20. The men's 10,000-meter race starts at 10:30 a.m., and the women's 6,000m race gets underway at 11:30 a.m. While the temperatures in Ames have been cold of late, they are expected to be in the low 60s on race day.

The Competition: For the third straight meet, the Wildcats will run against some of the top teams in the nation on both the men's and women's side. 20 women's teams and 17 men's ranked this week or receiving votes in the latest polls are expected to compete at the meet. Amongst those joining the No. 10 Arizona men will be No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Colorado, No. 7 Georgetown, No. 9 Brigham Young, No. 11 Northern Arizona, No. 12 Colorado State and No. 14 Arizona State. Arizona's 15th-ranked women's team will be joined by No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Colorado, No. 3 Brigham Young, No. 7 Georgetown, No. 10 Boston College and No. 14 Arizona State.

Last Time Out: The Arizona men had a very strong showing in second place at the Notre Dame Invitational Oct. 6 in South Bend, Ind. Junior Mike Cramer led the men's team in seventh place, while junior Tom Prindiville was 15th and senior David Lopez finished 18th. The women finished third, a great accomplishment considering they ran without their No. 1 runner, Tara Chaplin, who stayed in Tucson to rest up for the Pre-NCAA meet. Senior Katrin Engelen led the Wildcats in 13th, while junior Erin Doherty was 21st and sophomore Kimberly Bates was 28th.

Who's Going: Both the men's and the women's teams have developed solid seven-runner lineups so far this season, and they will send the charges out on Saturday. Going for the women will be junior Tara Chaplin, senior Katrin Engelen, junior Erin Doherty, sophomore Kimberly Bates, freshman Beth Hoge, sophomore Nicole Gurnicz and junior Jennifer Burris. The men's team will send senior David Lopez, juniors Mike Cramer, Tom Prindiville and Steve Smith, freshman Andrew Carlson and senior Rick Weis. A few Arizona men have been slowed by injury and illness recently, so the seventh runner will come from the mix of three freshmen, Kevin Engelhardt, Mike Howard and Matt McInvale.

For the Women: All five of the Arizona women's top finishers at the 1999 NCAA Championships will compete for the Wildcats this season. Led by junior Tara Chaplin, Arizona's No. 1 runner last year, the Wildcats are a deep and talented team from 1-9 in the running order. 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 handily won the Purdue Invitational and Roy Griak Invitational already this season. She did not compete at the Notre Dame Invitational, so she would be fully rested for the Pre-NCAA Meet. Senior Katrin Engelen showed during the 2000 track and field season, when she qualified for the 10,000m at the NCAA Championships, that she was ready to step up and fill a major role as the No. 2 runner this year. She has done just that, finishing in the top-16 at all of the Wildcat's first three races. Junior Erin Doherty ran one of the best races of her collegiate career at the Notre Dame Invitational and is 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 this year. Freshman Beth Hoge has acclimated herself to collegiate competition well this year, running as the team's No. 5 runner in the past two races. Sophomore Nicole Gurnicz transferred during the off-season from Boise State and has been another strong additive to the Wildcats' depth along with two-year letterwinner, junior Jennifer Burris.

And the Men: The greatest asset to the Arizona men's team has been its great depth this season. Without one big star for the team to rely on every race, a group of five have emerged as a pack that is capable of running together and finishing throughout the top-25 in races this season. Junior Mike Cramer has been the team's top runner twice this season, winning the Purdue Invitational and finishing seventh at the Notre Dame Invitational. Senior David Lopez was the team's top finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational in 15th. Junior Tom Prindiville, a 1,500m runner on the track, has run the two best races of his collegiate cross country career in back-to-back meets this year. He finished 17th at the Roy Griak and 15th at the Notre Dame Invitational, running as the team's No. 2 runner both times. Junior Steve Smith, a steepler on the track, has also been solid for the Wildcats, as has freshman Andrew Carlson. Senior Rick Weis made huge progress over the summer and has been a good contributor this year as the No. 6 runner, while the No. 7 spot has rotated through three freshmen -- Kevin Engelhardt, Mike Howard and Matt McInvale.

On the Web: Complete coverage of Wildcat cross country and track and field can be found on the Arizona athletic department's website (www.arizcats.com). This week, Trackwire Online's Geoff Thurner has a lengthy chat with Arizona junior Tara Chaplin on the Trackwire website (http://trackwire.rivals.com).

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 began the season unranked, but have ascended into the No. 15 spot of the Oct. 2 FinishLynx Division I women's rankings based on three strong races so far this season. The men's team started the season at No. 5, but has slipped a bit, falling to No. 10 in the Oct. 3 Mondo Division I men's poll.

Tara Terrific: Junior Tara Chaplin has established herself as one of the top up-and-coming 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. Chaplin did not compete at the Notre Dame Invitational, but stayed in Tucson to rest up for the Pre-NCAA Meet.

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 five runners -- senior David Lopez, 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, while Lopez and Prindiville were also in the top-20.

First Time For Everything: Arizona junior Mike Cramer won his first collegiate cross country race Sept. 9 at the Purdue Invitational, covering the 8,000m course in 25:23.4 to claim the individual title. Cramer began his career at Arizona in 1997 when he walked-on to the team and was redshirted to mature another year. After prepping at Tucson's Canyon del Oro High School, Cramer gained his first NCAA experience in 1998 when he was a solid No. 5 runner for the Wildcats throughout the season. Last year, he again helped add depth to the team, but continued to show his potential as he was the team's No. 3 runner and finished 74th overall at the NCAA Championships in Bloomington, Ind. On the track, Cramer ran an NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 10,000m of 29:46.16 at the Stanford Invitational. Arizona head coach Dave Murray says Cramer is one of the hardest workers he has ever coached, and his diligence in training is paying off for him individually and for the team this season. He was again the team's top finisher at the Notre Dame Invitational where he placed 7th.

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 his 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: "The season is progressing nicely to this point. Both the men's and women's teams are running as well as I would have hoped by now. Both of our top fives have been very solid, and knock-on-wood, we have been healthy to this point. This meet is going to be the last of what I call our pre-season. In two weeks, we begin our championship' season at the Pac-10 Championships. A number of our women have really made some improvements in the past couple of weeks. Erin (Doherty) has been running as well as she ever has, and Kim (Bates) has made some huge improvements. Katrin (Engelen) has struggled at the ends of races a little, but she has run very well, too."

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