Women 8th at Regionals, Lagat 17th

Nov. 15, 2008

NCAA West Regional Complete Results

The UA men's and women's cross country teams were in Palo Alto, Calif. today as they continued the championship season with the NCAA West Regional Championships at Stanford Golf Course.  The UA women put together a strong 8th place finish against some of the best competition in the country which hails from the West Region.  Four of the top 25 teams in the country took part in the race including Nos. 1 and 2 Washington and Oregon, respectively.

The women were led by senior Irine Lagat, who kept her hopes of a national championship invitation alive with her 17th place, All-Region finish of 20:28.05.  The mark was about 15 seconds better than her prior personal best.

'I felt good throughout the race,' Lagat said. 'I tried to push it all the way through and overall I'm happy and glad for my personal record.'

'Irine ran the best race of her life,' added head coach James Li on her performance.

Lagat's impressive run also will give her a shot to respresent Arizona at the NCAA National Championships next week.  The complicated formula stipulates that the the NCAA will automatically take the top four individual athletes from the top 25 finishers in each region who are not on a squad that earns a team qualification.  The top two teams from the regional automatically advance, but then a committee will select 13 other at-large teams from the nation. 

Lagat currently sits as the fifth place runner on a team not qualifying for the NCAA meet.  Because of this rule, Lagat would need the University of Califnornia-Davis team that finished sixth in the region to be selected for an at-large bid.  Two UC-Davis runners finished ahead of Lagat but if their team is selected then Lagat moves up to the automatic third place qualifier.  The competitiveness of the West Region could play to the UAs favor as the committee will surely take the face that the top two teams in the country and four top-25 teams reside in the west.

If UC-Davis is not selected, the UA could still benefit from the competitiveness of the West as two at-large athletes will also be selected to compete.  Based upon Lagat's strong finishes and consistent finishes for the UA throughout the season she may be one of those athletes to earn one of those particular bids.

'I feel like I have a chance but I don't what to say sitting at position number five right now,' she said.

Sophomore Maggie Callahan was the next athlete to cross the line for Arizona as she finished 52nd overall in 21:19.96 as she set her second personal record in as many weeks, just edging the mark of 21:20.13 she set at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago.  Freshman Hannah Moen was not long after Callahan, finishing in 59th overall in a time of 21:27.01, also setting a personal record for herself.

Fellow freshman Hanna Henson was abke to battle through a small lower-calf injury to a 75th-place, 21:49.30 finish while senior Shelly Splittberger rounded out the scoring in 91st lace in 22:02.63.

Thirty teams competed in the women's 6,000-meter race and the Wildcats finished sixth among Pac-10 Conference schools.  The University of Washington women again defended their No. 1 ranking in the country as they swept the 3rd through 7th place positions to dominate the event.

The UA men competed in their first 10,000-meter race of the year and wrapped up their season with a solid 12th place finish in an equally competitive men's West division. 

Sophomore Victor Zazueta regained his top running form as he obliterated his previous personal record in the event with a 34th place finish in 30:02.30, over a minute and a half better than his previous best. 

'I felt the meet was marked by some outstanding individual performances,' said Li. 'Victor finished better in this 10,000-meter race than her did at Pac-10's which was 8,000-meters.'

Sophomore Mohamud Ige was next for the Wildcats finishing 69th in 31:12.59 with redshirt freshman Abdi Hassan hot on his tail in 71st (31:12.59). 

Senior Dylan Fitzpatrick was next in 94th (31:54.30) while sophomore Reed Blochberger rounded out the top 5 Wildcats in 107th (32:12.03).

'We're happy with the improvement we've made throughout the season,' Li said. 'We have a young team on both sides and it gives us a lot to look forward to and work on next season.'

The West Regional will mark the end of the season for both the men and women's teams and they will now begin to prepare for the track and field season which begins in January.  Only Lagat has a chance to move on the the NCAA Championships.

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