UA Women Advance To Nationals
Nov. 15, 2009
TUCSON - It took nearly a decade, but the No. 24 Arizona women's cross country will be back in action at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships this year Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.
The USTFCCCA released their final line-up for this year's championship meet Sunday and Arizona - who knew they would be right on the bubble - was named as one of 13 teams to receive an at-large bid.
This will be the first UA female will step foot on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in an NCAA Championship meet since Beth Hoge did it in 2004, though only competing as a individual athlete. An entire women's squad has not represented Arizona since 2001 where they were led by the NCAA National Champion Tara Chaplin to a fourth place overall finish. That year also marked the last time a UA women's squad was ranked as well.
The difference between that 2001 squad and the team heading to Indiana for Arizona this year is the fact that the 2001 team actually had seniors. Junior Maggie Callahan is the eldest member of the women's squad this season and will be joined by two sophomores and a host of freshmen as they roll into the final week of the cross country season.
Callahan, taking the pressure in stride, has put together the most impressive year of her career this season and has paced the Wildcats in each race this season including an All-Conference 14th-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago.
Behind Callahan, the order has never been totally static but consistently impressive. Throughout the season, should one runner have a bad race another would step into her place and have a strong performance to make up for it. Never was this more evident than Saturday's NCAA West Regional Championships.
Running without one of the team's premier freshmen in Lauren Smith and seeing a couple other athletes not put together their best races, freshman Cami Jackson climbed to the number two role for Arizona while fellow freshman Megan Meyer - competing in her first race with the premier squad - brought some valuable points by taking the fifth position on the team.
Smith and Jennifer Bergman - another freshman - are two high school Footlocker Finalists and have lived up to the hype so far this season as they have consistently been among the top two or three runners for the Wildcats this season.
Hanna Henson, a sophomore and one of only three returning members on this year's team, has also put together a consistent season while freshman Liz Apgar has been reliable week in and week out when it comes to taking over should someone not have a great race. Outside Callahan, Apgar is the only UA runner to score in all of Arizona's last three races.
Led by the impressive freshmen and strong and yet youthful returnees, the women have strung together their best season in nearly a decade. In a little over a week, they will look to make sure everyone knows that this is a team to watch for the next couple years.