Wildcats on the Prowl at Pac-10 Cross Country Championships

Oct. 29, 2003

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Pullman, Washington for the Pac-10 Championships on Saturday, November 1. Washington State will play host to this year's championships on the Washington State University Golf Course. The men will run an 8,000-meter race, which is set to begin at 12 p.m. PT. The women's 6,000 meters will immediately follow at 1 p.m. PT. Complete results will be available on the Washington State web site (www.wsucougars.com) and the Pac-10 web site (www.pac-10.org).

The Competition: The Pac-10 Conference is home to several of the nation's top cross country teams. The men's championship race will feature five of the country's top 30 teams. Three ranked teams highlight the women's competition, while the rest of the competition will put up a strong fight.

Stanford comes in with the No. 1 ranking on both the men's and women's sides. They will be the clear-cut favorites to claim the team titles. The second-place team on the men's side is up for grabs. The Wildcats, along with Oregon and Arizona State, have a legitimate chance to claim that runner-up spot. Arizona State could also challenge for the women's title as the No. 4 team in the country. UCLA also fields a strong squad with the No. 15 ranking. Arizona's women, as well as Washington, Washington State, Oregon and California, will put up a strong fight to the finish.

Last Time Out: The UA men used the NCAA Pre-Nationals to make a big jump in the polls. After a fifth-place finish against some of the nation's toughest squads, the Wildcats propelled themselves to a No. 14 ranking in the MONDO rankings.

The Wildcat women finished 19th at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, showing their continued improvements. The women's squad continues make progress, and they have put themselves into good position heading into the Pac-10 Championships.

Coach's Corner: 'This is going to be a tough challenge for our teams. It's an unusual Pac-10 Championships because of the location. We've always been used to Stanford, where it's always been good weather. It will be an interesting challenge with the tough course and the weather. The weather and the course could be a significant equalizer. I don't think we are at a disadvantage. It's all in the mental strategy now.

'This is one of the best conferences in the nation. We are stronger on the men's side with five out of the eight teams ranked. The women's race will also be tough with three of the top 30 teams in the nation. It is going to be a tough meet to run in.

'Stanford is definitely the frontrunners for the men's race. If they run everyone, no one will be able to challenge them. After Stanford, we are in a mix with Oregon and Arizona State vying for the second spot. We are definitely going to go and try and get second. The team continues to look good and train well. Everyone is ready, and I'm really excited about that. Since last year was a down year for us, it's a good change to be near the top of the conference.

'Robert (Cheseret) could definitely be someone that wil challenge for the Pac-10 title. Jonah (Maiyo) and Kyle (Goklish) could all be in that leading pack for the men.

'On the women's side, Stanford and Arizona State are the frontrunners. Both teams have a chance at the title. UCLA is also very good, but after that, everything is up for grabs. We could be right there, but it will be challenging for us. If we do what we are capable of doing, we could be fourth or fifth. It will be interesting to see how is all shapes up.

Scouting the Wildcats:
Season Preview:
The 2003 men's and women's cross country teams are ready to show the competition what they've got. The UA men will be dominated by experience, whils the women's squad will be another young group. After ending the 2002 season prematurely at the NCAA West Regional, both the men and women have set their sights on returning to the NCAA Championships in November.

The UA men will be led by seniors Mark Anderson and Kyle Goklish. Both are coming off of stellar track seasons. Anderson was a qualifier in the 3,000m steeplechase at the NCAA West Regional, where he won his heat. Goklish also enjoyed a lot of success as the track team's sole 10k runner. He narrowly missed a trip to the NCAA Championships by a few seconds on the provisional qualifiers list. The Wildcats expect both Anderson and Goklish to lead this team to new heights in 2003.

The men's squad will also be joined by fellow seniors Eric Bohn, Kevin Engelhardt and Matt McInvale. Bohn looks to leave his mark at Arizona as he enters his final season. He has been a great addition to the team since he transfered from Michigan. Engelhardt and McInvale have been with the program throughout their collegiate careers. Both have been important members of the team and will be looked at to provide leadership throughout the 2003 season.

The Wildcats can also look towards some of the younger returnees for a lot of leadership this year. Jin Daikoku, Mike Howard, Josh Ludwig and Aaron Powell have all provided some great performances in recent years. Expect them to be strong contributors to the squad as the season rolls on.

Head coach James Li was able to bring a strong group of newcomers for the 2003 season. Heading up the group will be two natives of Kenya in Robert Cheseret and Jonah Maiyo. Cheseret enrolled at UA in January of 2003 and had a huge season on the Arizona track team. Cheseret capped off his sensational freshman season with a third-place finish in the 5,000m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Maiyo joins the Wildcats as a junior college transfer from Central Arizona. He brings a lot of talent to the squad, proven by his three junior college national titles in track and a third-place finish at the National Junior College Cross Country Championships.

Also joining the Wildcat men will be local high school standouts Eric Chavez of Rio Rico, Arizona and Chris Ogle of Tucson. Both bring a strong work ethic and great talent to the team. Kenny Frank, Ryan Ludwig and Jeremy Johnson will also be strong contributors to the Arizona cross country program.

On the women's side, the Wildcats are looking forward to having an exciting season. The thirteen-member squad is filled with freshmen and sophomores, except for three athletes. The talent of the team is tremendous and the Wildcats expect big things for the coming season.

The squad will be led by junior Beth Hoge. Hoge sat out during the 2002 season to save a redshirt year. She is coming off of an outstanding track season, where she reached the finals of the women's 5,000m at the NCAA Championships. Hoge was the second Wildcat finisher in 2001 at the NCAA Cross Country championships, in which Arizona finished fourth as a team.

Along with Hoge, the Wildcats will enjoy the leadership of Nicole Gurnicz. Gurnicz has been a strong member of the Wildcat squad in recent years. Like Hoge, she sat out the 2002 season in order to save an extra year of eligibility. Gurnicz expects to be back in top form to help lead the Wildcats in 2004.

Arizona returns the talent of seven sophomores this season. Last year's top runners Adrienne Goeller and Jenny Sears look forward to building upon their freshman seasons. Sears' season ended prematurely after an injury forced her to sit out. Both should be greatly improved and ready for action.

The Wildcats will also be helped out by the likes of freshmen Ashley Ippolito and Karen Langdorf. Both will develop their talents under the tutelage of Coach Li throughout the 2004 season.

Arizona looks to be very much improved in its men's and women's squads this season. They are expecting to compete with the best and vie for a return to the NCAA Championships.

Meet Recaps:
UC Irvine Invitational:
Both the men's and women's squads looked to be in top form at the Irvine Invitational, which took place Sept. 6. The Wildcats swept the team titles with all scoring runners placing in the top 16. The UA men dominated the competition, winning with 47 points, while the Wildcat women took the title with 45 points.

Kyle Goklish led the way for the men's team, placing second overall. The senior covered the 8,000-meter course in 25:07.3.

Beth Hoge was the top runner for the UA women. She finished the 5,000-meter race in 18:54.9, finishing third in the process.

Dave Murray Invitational: The Wildcats' lone home meet of the 2003 season was held at the Dell Urich Golf Course in Tucson. Both the men's and women's squads had strong showings against a tough field that included the Arizona State Sun Devils, as well as several open runners. Former Wildcat stars Erin Doherty and Mike Cramer were among the open competitors.

Freshman Robert Cheseret dominated the race from the start. The young Kenyan took home top honors, covering the 6.3-kilometer course in 19:12.36. It was Cheseret's first collegiate cross country race.

Junior Beth Hoge led the women's charge with an eighth place finish. Hoge completed the 4.3-kilometer race in 16:05.23.

Roy Griak Invitational: The UA men showed that they are a team to watch out for in 2003 with a sixth-place finish at the Griak Invite in Minneapolis, Minn. The Wildcat men beat six ranked teams in the process. The women's team looked a little outmatched in the strong field, finishing 21st in the team standings. Youth continues to be an obstacle for the UA women, but every runner continues to improve on a weekly basis.

The men's team was led by Cheseret's second-place finish. He covered the 8,000-meter course in 24:00, finishing only two seconds behind Kip Kangogo of BYU. Hoge led the UA women for the third straight week with a 75th-place finish. She finished the 6,000-meter course in 22:15.

ASU Invitational: The men's and women's squads posted second-place team performances on Friday, October 18 at Kiwanis Park, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State claimed the team titles in both races. In what was called a 'training race' by coach Li, the Wildcats looked to be right where they want to be at this point the season. The improvement being made by both squads continues consistently every week.

Cheseret was the top finisher for the Wildcats in his third cross country race of the season. He claimed the individual title in 23:59.3. It was his second victory of the season.

Hoge was the first Wildcat to cross the line for the women's squad. Hoge finished sixth in 17:59.3.

NCAA Pre-Nationals: The Wildcats are on a roll again. The UA men used several strong performances to propel the squad to a fifth-place finish among some of the nation's best. Cheseret was the top finisher, crossing the line in second place. He finished the 8,000-meter course, which is the same course for the NCAA Championships in November, in 23 minutes, 20 seconds. Cheseret was less than two seconds behind the winner.

The Wildcat women continue to make steady progress. The team finished 19th overall in its race. Hoge was the first Wildcat across the line. She finished 68th in 21 minutes, 45 seconds on the 6,000-meter course.

Chasing Cheseret: Freshman Robert Cheseret is taking the men's cross country team to new heights. The freshman from Kapsabet, Kenya first donned an Arizona uniform last spring during the 2003 track season.

Cheseret has leapt right into the cross country season, winning his first meet at the collegiate ranks. He won the Dave Murray Invitational with a time of 19:12.36, almost 20 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.At the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., Cheseret made himself a contender for the national title in November. Cheseret finished second on the 8,000-meter course in 24:00, only two seconds behind Kip Kangogo of BYU. Kangogo is considered one of the favorites to win the national title.

At the ASU Invitational, Cheseret had the Sun Devils' number yet again. He took the individual title in 23:59.3, finishing 10 seconds ahead of ASU's Juan Reyes to claim his second title of the season. Cheseret continues to prove himself as one of the nation's top runners after a second-place finish at the NCAA Pre-Nationals. He finished the 8,000-meter race in 23 minutes, 20 seconds, which was less than two seconds behind Dathan Ritzenhein of Colorado.

Cheseret's expectations have been set high after the way he finished the 2003 track season. A third-place finish in the 5,000 meters final at the NCAA Championships capped off his incredible freshman season. He also set Arizona's freshman record in the 5,000 meters, which now stands at 13:45.88.

The 2003 cross country season will be exciting for UA cross country fans as Cheseret continues to progress under the tutelage of head coach James Li.

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