Oct. 18, 2002
Up Next: The UA men's and women's cross country teams travel to Terre Haute, Ind. this weekend for the annual preview to the NCAA Championships later this season. The NCAA Pre-Nationals meet will allow the Wildcats to get a feel for the course and the competition that they may expect to compete against in November. Indiana State is the host of this year's championships. The women's 6K will begin at 11 a.m. CDT, and the men's 8K will get underway at 12:10 p.m. CDT.
Who's Going?: The Wildcats will be taking seven women and eight men to the meet this weekend. Traveling for the women will be: Jen Ford, Adrienne Goeller, Nicole Gurnicz, Michi Hirakawa-Wong, Susan Mortensen, Jenny Sears and Robin Tierney. The men's squad will include Mark Anderson, Eric Bohn, Kevin Engelhardt, Kyle Goklish, Wade Juntunen, Josh Ludwig, Craig Pansing and Aaron Powell. The Wildcats will be competing against many of the nation's top teams. In the women's race, they will go head to head with three top ten teams, including No. 1 BYU, No. 4 Colorado and No. 5 Georgetown. The UA men also will face three top ten teams, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 4 Northern Arizona and No. 10 BYU.
Fast Forward: With the regular season coming to a close this weekend for the UA, the men's and women's cross country teams will be gearing up for postseason competition. The first postseason meet will be the Pac-10 Championships in Los Angeles. UCLA will play host to this year's meet. Last year, the UA women finished second and the men placed fourth.
Coach Li's Corner: "This week's NCAA Pre-national meet is probably the biggest cross country meet one can find in the country. There are nearly 100 Division I schools competing in the meet. For our young and inexperienced runners, this is going to be a big challenge.
"I thought we made some good progress and did well last week at the ASU invitational. We had good training the last couple of weeks, but we need to step up to do well in this meet.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for our athletes, and I am confident that they will continue improving."
2002 Season Outlook The 2002 Cross Country season is the dawn of a new era for the University of Arizona Wildcats. The men's and women's teams head into the season with a new and fresh look. The biggest addition to the 2002 version of the Wildcat cross country teams is that of new head coach James Li. Li comes to the Wildcats from Washington State University, where he coached for eight years between cross country and track and field. The new leadership of Coach Li is sure to keep the great running tradition at Arizona alive and well.
This year's women's cross country team will have quite a different look from last year's squad. Nine of the twelve team members are true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. "We are going through a major transition with a group of very young women. It is going to be a year to gain experience and to start a new training system, while making an effort to carry on with our tradition here at Arizona," commented Coach Li.
The young team is expected to be led by junior Beth Hoge, who ran as a solid No. 2 runner last year for the Wildcats. Hoge played an important role in helping the team to a fourth-place finish at the 2001 NCAA Championships. Along with Hoge, senior Nicole Gurnicz will be an integral part of the women's squad. Gurnicz helped the Wildcats out a lot last year being one of the top seven runners. Hoge and Gurnicz will be followed by a lot of talented and young freshmen.
On the men's side, the Wildcats return a few more members of last year's squad than the women. The transition is the same for the Arizona men, but some of the team cohesiveness is already there. "The fundamentals we are facing is with a new coach and a new system. We have a group of athletes who are really talented, but are still very young and somewhat inexperienced," explained Coach Li.
The team will be led by junior Mark Anderson and senior Kyle Goklish. Both were members of the team that competed in last year's NCAA Championships. The Wildcats also have high hopes in Eric Bohn, Josh Ludwig, Wade Juntunen and Matt McInvale. According to Coach Li, if everyone steps up to meet the challenge, this team could perform quite well this season.
As the 2002 cross country season dawns on the Wildcats, one of the major goals will be to get everyone some valid experience in collegiate cross country and to perform the best of everyone's ability. Although this is considered a transition year for the Wildcats, they will show the perserverance and dedication that is attributed to the UA tradition.
Follow this Fellow: Junior Mark Anderson has been the backbone to the UA men's cross country team this far. Anderson has led the Wildcats in every meet to date. Leadership is nothing new to the Naval R.O.T.C. member, as it is a part of his daily routine. Anderson has been a consistent leader for the Wildcats since he joined the team as a freshman in 2000.
Anderson has been a consistent force for the UA men so far in the 2002 season. At the Aztec Invitational, he was responsible for breaking up a sweep of the top five places by the then-ranked No. 5 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Anderson placed fifth in that meet with a time of 25:46. He had another strong performance in the team's second meet of the year at the Roy Griak Invitational. Anderson was the only runner on the men's team to place in the top 100 runners. He finished 54th with a time of 25:10.8. He had one of his most impressive showings at the ASU Invitational where he placed second overall in 24:17. He trailed the leader by only three seconds. As the season continues on, Anderson will continue to be one of the Wildcat's greatest strengths and will have an impact in the conference and regional races in November.
Freshmen Frenzy: If it seems like the every runner on the UA women's cross country team is designated a true freshman or redshirt freshman, it's because it is mostly true. Nine of the twelve women on the roster are freshmen, and the five scoring runners in both meets to date have all been freshmen. The Wildcats' youth may seem like a disadvantage to most other teams, but the Arizona women are using it to their advantage. This season, the UA women are able to gain the experience and strength they will need to be a conference and national powerhouse in the future.