Sambu runner-up at NCAA West Regional.
Nov. 13, 2010
Complete NCAA West Regional Results
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - The University of Arizona's No. 6 women cross country team's fourth place finish and junior transfer Stephen Sambu's runner-up finish will send both to the NCAA National Championships a week on Nov. 22 after an exciting day of competition Saturday at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Sambu ran his first career 10,000-meter cross country race at the Division I level and made it count at the Springfield Country Club, leading down the stretch before getting run down by Portland's Trevor Dunbar at the stripe. The result was a photo finish with Dunbar just edging Sambu by six hundredths of a second and forcing Sambu into second place.
Sambu's final time on the course was 29:57.95 to Dunbar's 29:57.89. Both competitors were about two seconds away from their next closest competitor and nearly 20 seconds ahead of Stanford's Chris Derrick – last year's NCAA runner-up – and his teammates Elliot Heath and Jake Riley on a Cardinal squad that has absolutely dominated this season.
Despite the dramatic finish that didn't quite go Sambu's way, the junior college transfer from Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., will advance as an individual qualifier to the NCAA Championships meet based on being one of the top four finishers from a team that won't advance to the team competition at the national meet.
On the women's side, it was another close meet between the four teams that finished within six points of each other at the Pac-10 Championships. The UA women scored 90 points, just four behind Stanford's 86 and only 17 behind overall team champion Washington's 73 points.
Sophomore Jennifer Bergman led the way for the Wildcats for the second straight weekend, finishing ninth overall in 20:23.13. Freshman Elvin Kibet continued her amazing first year by finishing 12th overall for Arizona in 20:28.10.
Sophomore Megan Meyer, who has been on of the UA's most consistent runners, was next in 16th place (20:31.44) followed by junior Hannah Moen in 23rd (20:40.90). All four of those individuals also earned All-West Region honors courtesy of their top-25 finishes.
Sophomore Liz Apgar ran the best race of her career to earn the final points for the Arizona team in a personal best time on a 6,000-meter cross country course of 20:48.82 to finish 30th overall.
For the UA women, a spectacular finish was not necessary to advance to the NCAA Championships but a competitive race was in order just to alleviate any doubt. Only the top-two teams from the regional meets earn automatic qualifications while 13 other schools from across the country are selected on an at-large basis in a very complicated process.
With a Griak Invitational and runner-up finishes at the Pre-National Invite and Pac-10 Championships, the UA women's resume speaks for itself and sticking with the top teams on Saturday should solidify their standing.
Both the women and Sambu will not have their usual two-week turnaround before the next meet as the NCAA meet takes place just a week from Monday at the Wabash Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Wildcat women have a best finish of fourth at the NCAA Championships, a feat they accomplished in 2001 while the men have not posted a top-10 finisher at the meet since Robert Cheseret's 10th place finish in 2006. Both the team and the individual have good shots to equal or better those results next Monday.