Cross Country to Compete at Pac-10s

Oct. 22, 2007

Up Next: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams will compete at the Pac-10 Championships this weekend. The meet is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis, Ore.

The Competition: The Wildcats will be facing several of the top teams from around the country when they compete on Saturday. On the women's side, Arizona will go up against ranked teams from Stanford (1), Oregon (2), Arizona State (5) and Washington (9). The Wildcat men will also compete against ranked opponents, going up against Oregon (1), California (8), Stanford (15), UCLA (19) and Arizona State (25).

Last Time Out: The University of Arizona competed at the Pre-NCAA Invitational on Oct. 13, with the women's team placing with the women's team placing 19th and the men's team coming in 34th.

The women's team was paced by Irine Lagat, who finished the 6,000 meter race 40th overall with her time of 21:06. Also scoring points for the Wildcats were Marissa Urban (21:17, 50th), Maggie Callahan (21:54, 107th), Angelina Cabrera (22:08, 134th), and Shelly Splittberger (22:24, 154th).

Victor Zazueta again was the team's top finisher on the men's side, as he placed 158th overall (25:06, 8,000 meters). Also scoring points for the men were Dylan Fitzpatrick (25:23, 185th), Lou Maturo (25:56, 220th), Reed Blochberger (25:58, 222nd) and Spencer Carter (26:11, 227th).

Dave Murray Invitational: The team hosted its one and only meet of the year, the Dave Murray Invitational, on Sept. 14. The women's team placed second and the men's team finished in fifth. Irine Lagat led the way for the women's team, finishing the 4,000-meter race in a time of 13:47.62 to place fourth overall. This was the top individual finish of the junior's career. The men's team was paced by freshman Victor Zazueta's 27th place finish (19:19.08, 6,000 meters).

For the Wildcat Men: The University of Arizona men's cross country team features many new athletes in 2007. The team's top five runners from 2006 have graduated, and the roster has been reloaded with new faces. Of the 14 athletes on the current roster, 10 are freshmen and three are sophomores. Junior Lou Maturo is the lone upperclassman on the team.

Sophomores Dylan Fitzpatrick and Brian MacArthur join Maturo as returning scorers from last year. Their experience will be invaluable and they will be counted on to provide leadership to the young team.

The team features ten freshmen, as Michael Armon, Reed Blochberger, Tanner Carothers, Spencer Carter, Abdi Hassan, Zack Hauer, Jordan Mara, Mark Molera, Scott Morton and Victor Zazueta are each wrapping up their first season at Arizona. Zazueta is a two time Arizona state cross country champion (2005 and 2006), and has been the Wildcats top finisher in each of the races in which he has competed.

The men placed third in the Pac-10 during the 2006 season, and are still looking for their first ever conference championship. The team also qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2006, where they placed 21st overall.

For the Wildcat Women: The women's team returns almost all of its top runners from 2006 and is looking to improve on last years seventh place Pac-10 finish.

The women are led by last year's top runner, Marissa Urban. Urban was the top Wildcat finisher in each race in which she competed in 2006 anchors the up and coming women's squad. The junior has been one of the team's top runners so far this season, finishing first or second on the team in each race in which she has competed.

Junior Irene Lagat and freshman Maggie Callahan have had strong starts to the 2007 season, as both have shown that they are capable of contending at the conference level. Callahan is a former Alaska Gatorade Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year, and Lagat is the younger sister of former Pac-10 distance legends Robert Cheseret and Bernard Lagat. Along with Urban, Lagat and Callahan have consistently been among the top three Wildcat finishers.

Senior Angelina Cabrera, sophomore Tiffany Sorrell and junior Shelly Splittberger are all returning and figure to be in contention for scoring positions. These athletes were regular contributors during the 2006 season, and figure to repeat that success this year. Juniors Angela Farr and Staci Ulibarri will join sophomores Liz Cary and Sarah Romano to provide the team with depth. Each of these athletes competed for the Wildcats in 2006, and with another year's experience under their belts they will be relied upon to score points for the team

Also competing for the Wildcats will be freshmen Christina Rodgers and Kassidy Rede. Rodgers was the track and field program's top 800 meter runner last spring, while Rede helped Salpointe High School to an Arizona 5A state title in 2006.

The women's team placed seventh at the conference meet last year, but has the talent and the experience to improve in 2007.

Coach Li: James Li is in his sixth season with the Wildcat coaching staff, where he serves as the head cross country coach and associate track and field coach. Li came to Arizona in 2002 from Washington State, where he worked with the Cougar track and field and cross country programs for a combined total of 13 years. Li also previously coached at the Sichuan Sports Technique Institute in Sichuan, China (1983-1985) and at Minnesota State at Mankato (1990-1994). Li has coached numerous individual athletes and relay teams to more than 30 conference championships, 50 All-American honors and nine national championships. Among these athletes are Bernard Lagat and Robert Cheseret, two of the most decorated distance runners in Pac-10 history. Lagat, who continues to train with Li, won gold medals at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, making him the first American to ever complete that double.

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