XC Women Chase First NCAA Berth Since 2001
Nov. 13, 2009
EUGENE, Ore. - It's been nearly a decade since the last UA women's cross country team qualified for the NCAA Championships. Saturday, the 2009 squad will have a chance to bring the streak to end as they compete at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Eugene, Ore. and look to solidify their resume in the final meet before the Big Dance.
It was 2001 the last time UA women entered the NCAA National Championships, led by the NCAA National Cross Country Champion Tara Chaplin. 2001 was also the last time a women's team has made it into the rankings for the Wildcats.
The No. 24 squad this season has already ended one of those droughts and likely sits on the bubble of ending the second, barring their finish at Saturday's race. The team solidified its resume with an impressive sixth place finish in their section at the NCAA Pre-National meet a month ago, upsetting many team ranked ahead of them entering the weekend. In fact, the women's squad was unranked heading into that meet and was up against 18 the NCAA's top 30 teams. The Wildcats' overall time in the race in Terre Haute was the twelfth best.
The Wildcats kept the drive going two weekends ago at the Pac-10 Conference Championships in Long Beach, with every member of the team dropping below the 21-minute mark for the first time in the careers. However, several other squads posted equally impressive times and despite the personal records, the Wildcat team finished only sixth in the conference.
This weekend's race will be a time for the squad to put it all on the line to show that they are one of the elite teams in the conference and are worthy of one of the at-large bids necessary to qualify for the NCAA Meet.
The selection process is testy at best, with only the top two squads from each regional meet qualifying for the national meet and the rest of the teams selected essentially by the resume they post the rest of the season. The team's strong finish at the Pre-National meet made a big difference and a strong placing at this weekend's Regional coild solidify Arizona's spot.
The team is led by All-Conference junior Maggie Callahan, who has paced the Wildcats the whole season and broke loose from a 14th-place, 20:26.59 performance at the conference meet - a career best at 6000-meters.
Behind Callahan is a slew of freshmen who have made all the difference in the world on this year's squad. With only three returning members from last years team, the UA team was going to rely on the first-year athletes to score points and so far they have not disappointed.
Led by two Footlocker Finalists in Lauren Smith and Jennifer Bergman while Arizona product Cami Jackson and San Diego prep star Liz Apgar have also made their presence known as the season has gone on. Returning sophomore Hanna Henson has been consistent all season as well, scoring points in each meet for Arizona.
A strong performance from the whole squad will be necessary to keep the team's impressive season alive.
The women's race will run at 6000-meters again and the gun will go off at 10:45 a.m. for them.
The men will bring a small squad of athletes this weekend as well, as they focus on posting strong individual times rather than a big team score. Their race - the first 10,000-meter race of the season - begins at 9:45.