Ige qualifies for Nationals, Women Take Fifth and Await Fate

Nov. 14, 2009

EUGENE, Ore. - The No. 24 UA women came out and did what they needed to do.  Now, the wait begins. 

On a day where senior UA runner Mohamud Ige surprised the field on his way to a ninth place National Championship qualifying performance in the men's race, the women strung together a impressive fifth place finish at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Eugune on Saturday and now must await the decision as to whether it was enough to earn the squad its first bid to the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind since 2001.

The day didn't start out as the Wildcats may have liked.  Freshman phenom Lauren Smith did not make the trip to Oregon due to a foot injury, meaning that someone would have to step in and fill her shoes in the biggest race the women have competed in in nearly a decade.  And it was a couple other freshmen that answered the call.

Junior Maggie Callahan continued her impressive year, pacing the Wildcats again on her way to a 24th-place finish in 21:38.11.  Callahan, the team's most senior member has been the first UA athlete across the line in very race this season.

'The team's overall performance was exactly what we needed it to be,' Callahan said after the race. 'We had a feel individuals that feel like they didn't have a good race and others stepped up.'

'From a team persepctive, it was perfect.'

One of those athletes who stepped up was freshman Megan Meyer, traveling with the primary women's squad for the first time in her young career fiolled up the fifth scoring position for Arizona finishing the 6000-meters course 60th overall in 22:23.99 at the Springfield Country Club Course.

'That was just incredible,' Callahan said of ther teammate. 'She was kind of hurt early in the season and had never traveled with us and we didn't really know what she could do.'

'She came here in a big race - a money race - and finished in that fifth position for us.  That was huge.'

Fellow freshman Cami Jackson also ran one of the best races during her short tenure at Arizona by finishing 37th in 21:55.84.  The Arizona high school product was the second UA athlete across the line but believes it was the team's performance that is the biggest news of the day.

'We came in here knowing we had to perform well to get to Nationals and we just used that as motivation,' Jackson said. '(The girls that stepped up) just show that we care about the team and we care about each other.'

Jennifer Bergman also continued her impressive freshman year Saturday as the third Arizona runner to finish.  The former high school Footlocker Finalist was right behind Jackson in 37th in 21:55.94. 

Liz Apgar was the fourth freshman to score points for the UA in the fourth spot, finishing 51st in 22:12.71.

The team posted a fifth-place finish overall out of 25 teams in competition to help set themselves up for one of the final at-large bids to the NCAA Championship.  Their fate will be dependent on the other regional finals that took place this weekend.

On the men's side, an up-and-down season that started with a strong race at the Dave Murray Meet earlier in the year saw the season dwindle thanks to injuries.  But Saturday, senior Mohamud Ige ensured that the men won't go unrepresented in Terre Haute.

Ige ran the race of his life in the first 10,000-meter run of the season on his way to an All-Region ninth place finish in 30:56.84.

Ige will be the first athlete to represent the men's team since the UA qualified for the National Championship meet in 2006.  It was Ige's best performance since a freak incident at the Notre Dame Invite a month-and-a-half ago where he tripped at the start of the race and suffered several minor injuries that set him back.  That was until Saturday.

'Honestly, I didn't expect to be there,' Ige said after the race. 'But as soon as the gun went off I knew I wasn't going to have another race like Notre Dame.'

'I had nothing to lose, I'm a senior and my back was against the wall so I just got out in front and I stayed there.'

Ige said that he heard his coach, James Li, yelling at him with a lap left in the race and letting him  know how he just had to stay where he was to get to Nationals.  Ige didn't take his foot off the gas and pushed himself into the best individual men's finish at a regional meet since 2006 as well.

'I made a huge promise to (Coach Li) and my team that this wasn't going to be over and I was going to do it for them,' Ige said. 'I'm carrying them on my back and I'm representing Arizona as a whole.'

'I feel like I should be celebrating but at the same time I think there is still more to be accomplished and there is Nationals so the job is not done yet.'

Should the women qualify for Nationals, they would compete with Ige in Terre Haute a week-and-a-half from now on Nov. 23.  Check back at arizonaathletics.com for an update on the status of the women's NCAA bid.

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