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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cross country heads to Palo Alto for West Regional Championships

    With the end of the cross country season approaching and the NCAA Championship only 10 days away, the UA men’s and women’s squads head to Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday for the biggest meet of the season to date – the NCAA West Regional Championships.

    If Arizona, which has experienced some ups and downs this season, hopes to get a bid to the NCAA national championship meet, it needs to run very well this weekend to prove it is a legitimate contender.

    “”I think we have a chance. But in order to make it to nationals, we have to go out there and compete hard,”” said senior frontrunner Irine Lagat.

    Right now, Lagat said the team is ready for nationals, but the Wildcats’ performance in the Pacific 10 Championships on Nov. 1 did set them back, as both the men’s and women’s teams finished in seventh place.

    “”We’re definitely going to have to run better than at the Pac-10 Championships,”” Lagat said. “”Running better this weekend will probably assure us a better chance of going to nationals.””

    Because this meet is literally do-or-die for the Arizona, there is some added pressure on the runners to succeed. However, Lagat is not too worried about that,

    “”Pressure will be there because we have to do so well,”” Lagat said. “”But it’s a matter of going there and just competing. If we can do that, we should be fine.””

    To get prepared for such a huge meet, the runners have just been trying to stay focused and calm, but the excitement is still very empowering.

    “”We had a team meeting and everybody is really excited,”” Lagat said. “”Everybody is ready to compete and hopefully make it to nationals. If we run well, I feel like we have a very good chance of reaching our goal.””

    The UA men’s team seems to have found the fountain of youth, as its top runners are also its youngest.

    Sophomores Victor Zazueta, Mohamud Ige and redshirt freshman Abdi Hassan have led the Wildcats all season long and will try to bounce back after the tough Pac-10 Championship meet.

    Ige was the first UA runner to cross the finish line in the 8-kilometer run in the meet with an impressive time of 24:30.75. Even more impressive, two more Arizona runners finished in the next 17 seconds of the race.

    But Arizona’s fifth runner, junior Brian MacArthur, didn’t finish until almost a minute after Ige completed the race. If the Wildcats are going to be successful in the meet this weekend, they are going to have to close the gap between their top five runners, a feat that needs to be accomplished by both the men’s and women’s team.

    “”We have to pack it up together in the front,”” Lagat said. “”It is just so important for us to run close together.””

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