Wildcat Cross Country Kicks Off 2002 Season at Aztec Invitational

Sept. 12, 2002

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Up Next: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams will travel to San Diego, Calif. to compete in the Aztec Invitational. San Diego State will play host to one of the largest early-season cross country meets. The tough course at Balboa Park will test the Wildcats' strength and endurance. The women's 5K race will begin at 8:45 a.m. PT, and the men's 8K will follow at 10 a.m. PT.

Who's Going?: The Wildcats will send eight men and nine women to the meet this weekend. On the women's side, the Wildcat travel roster will include: Jennifer Ford, Adrienne, Goeller, Michi Hirakawa-Wong, Beth Hoge, Harisimran Khalsa, Susan Mortensen, Jenny Sears, Lilli Shoen and Robin Tierney. The men's squad for the meet will feature: Mark Anderson, Eric Bohn, Jin Daikoku, Al Eder, Wade Juntunen, Josh Ludwig, Craig Pansing and Aaron Powell.

Fast Forward: After opening the season at the Aztec Invitational, the Wildcats will take a week off to prepare for the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 28. The Griak Invitational will feature some of the nation's top competition, and it will ready the Wildcats for their conference and regional tests in November.

Coach Li's Corner: 'This is the season-opener, and it is an important meet for us. We have a very young and inexperienced group. This meet is a good meet to compete in during the early cross country season. There will be a lot of good runners and teams there to test us.'

'It is a great opportunity for our younger athletes to get their feet wet and to gain some initial experience. They won't have a lot of opportunities before some of our bigger meets like the Roy Griak Invitational and the NCAA Pre-National meet.'

'This will be a really good opportunity for our team to learn about collegiate competition and how it is different than what they were used to before this.'

2002 Season OutlookThe 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.

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