Men's Cross Country Off to NCAA Championships

Nov. 21, 2003

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Up Next: The University of Arizona's men's cross country team will travel to Waterloo, Iowa for the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, November 24. The University of Northern Iowa will play host to 510 of the nation's toughest runners. A total of 31 teams and 40 individuals will compete for the individual and team titles in the men's championship race. The men's 10k is slated to begin at 11 a.m. CT.

The Competition: The competition is sure to be fierce as the Wildcats toe the line on Monday morning. The Wildcats enter the championship meet with the No. 20 ranking in the MONDO men's national rankings. Stanford comes in as the overwhelming favorite after dominating the competition at the Pac-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional. The Cardinal garnered 15 first place votes for a commanding lead in the latest rankings. The No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers earned one first-place vote after winning their regional meet. No. 3 Colorado, No. 4 Iona and No. 5 Michigan all look poised to make a run, but the Cardinal have a huge edge heading into Monday's race.

The Wildcats will be joined by five other teams from the NCAA West Region. Stanford and Cal Poly snatched up the two automatic bids at regional championships. Arizona, along with Washington, Oregon and Portland earned at-large bids based on their performances throughout the season and their regional finishes.

Wildcat freshman Robert Cheseret looks to be a part of the frontrunners for the men's individual title. The young Kenyan has finished no worse than third in any meet this season. He finished second to Kip Kangogo of BYU at the Roy Griak Invitational and second to Dathan Ritzenhein of Colorado at the NCAA Pre-Nationals. Cheseret finished by two runners from Stanford at the Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional Championships.

Junior Jonah Maiyo also looks to be a part of the front pack for the Wildcats. The junior-college transfer has been coming on strong in the last several meets and looks to make a strong push and help the Wildcats improve their finish at the NCAA Championships.

The rest of the squad all looks poised to turn some heads in the Wildcats' return to the NCAA Championships after a one-year hiatus. Seniors Eric Bohn, Kyle Goklish and Matt McInvale are looking to close out their collegiate cross country careers with a strong showing. Junior Mike Howard and sophomore Jin Daikoku also look ready to end this 2003 season on a high note.

Last Time Out: The Wildcat men knew what they had to do when they took their places on the starting line at the NCAA West Regional in Portland, Ore. The UA men used a strong team and mental strategy to put themselves into a place to earn a trip back to the NCAA Championships. Their third-place finish behind the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal and talent-stacked Cal Poly did just that for the Wildcats.

Arizona was led by freshman Robert Cheseret's third-place finish. Cheseret covered the 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 35 seconds. Junior Jonah Maiyo's 10th place finish in 30:06 was also a big part in propelling the Wildcats to their successful team finish.

The UA women finished the season strong with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional. The Wildcat women were led by junior Beth Hoge's 41st-place finish in 21:49. Sophomore Adrienne Goeller wasn't too far behind in 50th, covering the 6,000-meter course in 22:07.

Coach's Corner:
Head Coach James Li
'The regular season worked really well for us. We scored more than enough to get an at-large bid. Finishing third at the regional and being the first considered for an at-large bid helps, too. Our guys definitely came through.

'They ranked us 20th in this week's poll, and there are 31 teams going to the meet. We are more or less in the middle of the pack. I think we are capable of and are shooting to finish in the top 15. That is a very realistic goal for us.

'We need to go and run a race that we are capable of. They don't need to and do anything extraordinary, but just do what they are capable of and do well.

'Obviously, we have probably two guys up in the top-20 range. As always, the key for the team's success with be in the number-four and number-five runners. They need to be close and in the middle of the pack. If they come in between 100th and 120th, then our team will do very well.

'This is the national championships. Everyone that can run well will be there. It isn't anything that we haven't experienced so far.

'I know that Robert (Cheseret) will run with the top pack. He is definitely capable od doing that. When it comes to the end, it will be who can kick the best. This year with the type of training he's been doing and being a freshman, he has been out-kicked a few times by a small margin. But the national championships are an entirely different race. I think he'll be in the hunt and make a challenge for the individual title. Whether he does it or not will depend on how he runs and how other people run. He should be up in the top 10 and run with the front group the entire way.

'I guess this is the 'big dance.' It is good to get back as a team after my first year. I hope it will be a sort of beginning of a new tradition. I want to be back and continue to become known as one of the top cross country programs in the nation year-in and year-out from now on.'

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.

Pac-10 Championships: The Wildcats fought hard through the cold weather and hilly course at the Pac-10 Championships. The conditions got the better of several athletes, and the squads came up a little short of the goals they had set for themselves. The men placed fourth behind Stanford, Oregon and Washington. Freshman Robert Cheseret led the way with a third-place finish. He was closely followed by junior Jonah Maiyo, who finished fifth.

The women's squad finished sixth in the overall team standings. Junior Beth Hoge was the first to cross the finish line, claiming 28th place. Sophomore Adrienne Goeller wasn't too far behind in 30th place.

NCAA Western Regional Championships: The Wildcat men knew what they had to do when they took their places on the starting line at the NCAA West Regional in Portland, Ore. The UA men used a strong team and mental strategy to put themselves into a place to earn a trip back to the NCAA Championships. Their third-place finish behind the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal and talent-stacked Cal Poly did just that for the Wildcats.

Arizona was led by freshman Robert Cheseret's third-place finish. Cheseret covered the 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 35 seconds. Junior Jonah Maiyo's 10th place finish in 30:06 was also a big part in propelling the Wildcats to their successful team finish.

The UA women finished the season strong with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional. The Wildcat women were led by junior Beth Hoge's 41st-place finish in 21:49. Sophomore Adrienne Goeller wasn't too far behind in 50th, covering the 6,000-meter course in 22:07.

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 has been exceptionally strong during the championship season. He started off with a third-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships, finishing only behind two runners from the No.1-ranked Stanford team. At the NCAA West Regional, he came up with another third-place finish, again behind two Stanford Runners. He covered the 10,000-meter course in 29:35. He now looks forward to chasing the ultimate prize - a national title - at the NCAA Championships on November 24.

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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