2001 UA Men's Cross Country Outlook

Sept. 25, 2001

For the second straight season, the University of Arizona men's cross country team returns five of its top seven runners from the previous year's NCAA Championship squad. Last season, the Wildcats parlayed those numbers into a 12th-place finish at the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Ames, Iowa.

This year, with a crop of talented young athletes entering the fold, head coach Dave Murray has his goals set even higher.

'We are going into the season with a very strong group of runners,' Murray said. 'We are returning seven of our top nine runners from last season, and each of them has another year of experience and development under them. We have the nucleus of what should be a very good team.'

The team's best feature last season was its versatility. Three different runners from the top group led the team at various meets throughout the season. Two of those - seniors Tom Prindiville and Mike Cramer - are back this season and are in position to lead the Wildcats at the top of the lineup.

'Tom Prindiville had a great cross country season, but he had to redshirt the (outdoor) track season because of a stress fracture in his back. He is running very well again, and I think that he is going to be able to duplicate what he was able to do what he did during the cross country season.'

Prindiville earned All-Pacific-10 Conference and All-West Region honors, finishing as the Wildcats' top runner at both meets. Prindiville finished fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and third at the NCAA West Regional before fading to 89th at the NCAA Championships.

Prindiville was in good form during the indoor track and field season before suffering the injury. He showed some of his short-distance speed, running 4:13.94 (4:05.72aa) in the mile and winning the 3,000m at the MPSF Championships in Flagstaff, Ariz.

While Prindiville led the team late in the 2000 cross country season, Cramer was the team's top runner in several of the other meets. The Tucson native won his first individual title as a collegiate at the Purdue Invitational, the first meet of the season, helping the Wildcats win that competition.

Cramer later led the team to a second-place finish at the Notre Dame Invitational, finishing seventh overall. He then claimed an 11th-place finish as the top Wildcat at the Pre-NCAA Invitational. Later in the season, Cramer finished 13th at the Pac-10 Championships and 16th at the NCAA West Regional.

'Mike is the type of runner who just puts in the maximum amount of effort,' Murray said. 'He puts in a lot of miles, and he is a key for us in the longer races during the season. His experience is also a major benefit for us, seeing that he has three years under his belt now.'

The third senior on the team, Steve Smith, did not finish as the Wildcats' top finisher at a meet last season, but he was the team's second finisher twice and the third Wildcat to cross the line at the Pac-10 Championships.

Smith excelled during the track and field season, running the best steeplechase times of his career during the 2001 season. Smith finished 11th at the Pac-10 Championships and was the team's second finisher at the NCAA West Regional, placing fifth to earn All-Region honors.

Four freshmen were key contributors for the Wildcats last season, and three of them return this year as sophomores with big-meet experience. Andrew Carlson ran in the team's top five much of the season, but he transferred to the University of Minnesota to be closer to his Fargo, N.D., home.

Matt McInvale did not run as well as expected early last season, but he blossomed into a quality runner late in the season and showed more of his potential during the track and field season. He was the team's sixth runner at both the NCAA West Regional, finishing 36th, and the NCAA Championships, placing 185th.

Mike Howard, another native Tucsonan, added quality depth for the Wildcats during both the cross country and track and field seasons. He was the team's seventh runner at the Pac-10 Championships, placing 43rd.

Kevin Engelhardt ran in the first two races of last season, finishing 15th in the Purdue Invitational. However, he was limited late in the season with a leg injury and then redshirted the track and field season with the same injury. Freshman Mark Anderson redshirted during cross country season last year but proved to be a nice addition to the 2001 track team and should contribute this fall.

Arizona will also have several new faces on the roster this season. Freshman Jin Daikoku was one of the top cross country and track and field athletes in the state of California as a prep runner at Lowell H.S. in San Francisco. He finished second in the state 1,600m as a junior and was a state cross country meet qualifier his first three years of high school.

Another newcomer expected to make an immediate impact is junior Kyle Goklish, who is a transfer from Central Arizona College. He was the NJCAA runner-up in cross country last year and finished third in the 5000m at the 2001 NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships while leading his team to a runner-up finish overall. Also adding depth for the Cats this season will be sophomore Eric Bohn, a transfer from the University of Michigan.

The Wildcats will have their hands full with competition throughout the season. Arizona travels to Maine, Utah and Minnesota, among other places for meets this season. The Wildcats then run at the Pac-10 Championships in Gilbert, Ariz., and they will host the NCAA West Regional in Tucson.

'Year-in and year-out, the Pac-10 is one of the best, if not the best, conferences in the nation for cross country,' Murray said. 'Early in the year, we go out and run against the best competition in the nation before the championship season begins, so we will be prepared to run at the conference meet, regionals and nationals.'

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