Wildcat Cross Country Faces Several Conference Rivals at ASU Invite

Oct. 9, 2002

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Up Next: The UA men's and women's cross country teams will make the short drive up to Gilbert, Ariz. for the ASU Invitational on Friday, October 11. The women's 5,000-meter race will start at 4:45 p.m., followed by the men's 8,000-meter race at 5:15 p.m. The Wildcats will see conference rivals, Stanford and host Arizona State. Also competing will be BYU, Northern Arizona and several junior colleges.

Who's Going?: Six women and eleven men will represent the Wildcats this weekend. Competing for the women will be Jen Ford, Adrienne Goeller, Michi Hirakawa-Wong, Susan Mortensen, Amber Steen and Robin Tierney. The men's team will be made up of Mark Anderson, Eric Bohn, Al Eder, Kevin Engelhardt, Mike Howard, Ryan Irwin, Wade Juntunen, Josh Ludwig, Matt McInvale, Craig Pansing and Aaron Powell.

Fast Forward: The ASU Invitational is the second to last regular season meet for the Wildcats. The teams will end the regular season at the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet, the annual primer for the NCAA Championships, in Terre Haute, Indiana. The meet will take place on Saturday, October 19, where the Wildcats will meet the nation's top teams as they prepare for a run at the national title.

Coach Li's Corner: 'This week will be a bigger meet for us than we had expected. For most of our runners, it will be good to have them compete against some of the tough teams that will be there.

'Two weeks ago, I think that we did better than in our first meet. I'm looking for improvement and for everyone to continually run better. We have had some good training over the last two weeks, and it should help everyone in their own performance.

'Fundamentally, we are getting everyone to gain experience in the big-time competition. Most have not had the opportunity before because they were not quite at that level at the time.

'Looking at this week and at next week's Pre-NCAA meet, our teams will gain a lot of experience, and I expect them to do well.'

2002 Season Outlook
The 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.

Follow this Fellow: In the first two meets of the season, the UA men have looked to junior Mark Anderson to take charge. Leadership is nothing new to the Naval R.O.T.C. member, as it is a part of his daily routine. Anderson has been a consistent leader for the Wildcats since he joined the team as a freshman in 2000.

Anderson has been a consistent force for the UA men so far in the 2002 season. At the Aztec Invitational, he was responsible for breaking up a sweep of the top five places by the then-ranked No. 5 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Anderson placed fifth in that meet with a time of 25:46. He had another strong performance in the team's second meet of the year at the Roy Griak Invitational. Anderson was the only runner on the men's team to place in the top 100 runners. He finished 54th with a time of 25:10.8. As the season continues on, Anderson will continue to be one of the Wildcat's greatest strengths and will have an impact in the conference and regional races in November.

Freshmen Frenzy: If it seems like the every runner on the UA women's cross country team is designated a true freshman or redshirt freshman, it's because it is mostly true. Nine of the twelve women on the roster are freshmen, and the five scoring runners in both meets to date have all been freshmen. The Wildcats' youth may seem like a disadvantage to most other teams, but the Arizona women are using it to their advantage. This season, the UA women are able to gain the experience and strength they will need to be a conference and national powerhouse in the future.

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