The Meet: The University of Arizona mens and womens cross country teams travel to the 16th Annual Roy Griak Invitational Saturday, Sept. 23 in St. Paul, Minn., where the Wildcats will face the largest and best early-season field of teams in the nation. The meet, hosted by the University of Minnesota, gets underway with the mens 8,000m race at 11 a.m. (CDT) at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. The womens 6,000m race follows at Noon (CDT).
The Competition: Arizona will face some of the top teams in the country at this meet. Nine of the top-25 teams in the preseason mens cross country poll are scheduled to run at the meet including No. 5 Arizona, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 9 Oregon, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Minnesota and No. 14 Providence. Eight of the top-25 womens teams from the preseason poll are expected to run with No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 6 Brigham Young, No. 8 Providence and No. 10 Arizona State among them.
Whos Going: Both the mens and womens teams will send nine runners to the first couple of meets, including this one. Competing for the Arizona women will be: Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty, Katrin Engelen, Nicole Gurnicz, Harisimran Khalsa, Beth Hoge and Andrea Schwartz. The men will field a team of: Andrew Carlson, Mike Cramer, Kevin Engelhardt, Mike Howard, David Lopez, Matt McInvale, Tom Prindiville, Steve Smith and Rick Weis.
For the Women: All five of the Arizona womens top finishers at the 1999 NCAA Championships will compete for the Wildcats this season. Led by junior Tara Chaplin, Arizonas 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. Senior Katrin Engelen qualified for the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 10,000m and has carried her fine running streak in the cross country season. Juniors Erin Doherty and Jennifer Burris were both solid contributors in the teams top-4 last year and are in great shape again.
Four newcomers and another returnee add more depth to the Wildcats squad this season, too. Sophomore Kimberly Bates was a quality No. 5-6 runner last year and will help in that capacity again. Sophomore Nicole Gurnicz transferred during the off-season from Boise State and gives the Wildcats another solid runner with collegiate experience. Sophomore Harisimran Khalsa and freshmen Beth Hoge and Andrea Schwartz will also push for spots in the top seven that will travel to future meets.
And the Men: Arizona finished 10th at last years NCAA Championships, and four of the top five runners from that race return to the team this year. Senior David Lopez was the teams No. 2 runner last season and is poised to fill the role of the departed Micheil Jones, although juniors Steve Smith and Mike Cramer will have plenty to say (with their feet) in the race for the teams top spot. Juniors Tom Prindiville and Rick Weis has shown in fall practice he is capable of running with the front pack, and four freshmen will be amongst the challengers for the Wildcats. Andrew Carlson, Mike Howard, Kevin Engelhardt and Matt McInvale form one of the top freshmen classes in the nation this season with a wealth of distance running ability. With the veteran core and crop of quality freshmen runners, the Wildcats will once again be one of the top teams in the nation.
Going Polling: The Wildcat men began the season ranked No. 5 in the Mondo NCAA Mens Division I Cross Country poll, as voted on by the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association. Arkansas led the poll eight first-place votes and 392 total. Stanford came in second, also with eight first-place votes, with 390 votes. The top-5 rounded out with Colorado (367), Iona (302) and the Wildcats (301). The Arizona women are 31st, in the receiving votes column, of the FinishLynx NCAA Womens Division I Cross Country 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 race of 2000, winning the Purdue Invitational crown.
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 Tucsons 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 teams 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.
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 mens cross country program since 1968, and the womens 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.
Murrays Musings: "This week is really going to be much more of a test for us than the meet was at Purdue. That was a good solid test, but this is going to be a great one this early in the season. Wisconsin has a great team on both the mens and womens side, and the BYU womens team is also very formidable. There are a lot of other teams that area really going to challenge us at this meet, so it will be good to see where we stack up.
Our strength is going to be with our depth, not so much with individuals, unless one of the guys really steps up. You throw our top five guys out there and there is not much difference between them. The womens team has much the same story, but Tara (Chaplin) also gives us a very good individual runner. This is definitely one of the best early season meets, and we are looking forward to go against some very good teams."