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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA track opens season with high expectations


Nine conference champions are returning to the Arizona track and field teams, and that didn’t go unnoticed in preseason rankings. The Wildcats kick off the 2012 season Saturday at the Lumberjack Invitational, hosted by NAU.

The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association preseason poll was released Tuesday, with the men’s team checking in at No. 9 and the women’s at No. 10.

The men’s team features NCAA cross-country champion Lawi Lalang, who is joined by two-time All American and 2011 Pac-12 Champion senior Stephen Sambu, as well as Chris McSwain, Bozidar Antunovic and Nick Ross.

Lalang was also named to the preseason men’s watch list for the Bowerman Trophy, the nation’s top award for collegiate track and field. Lalang, a sophomore from Eldoret, Kenya, is coming off of an undefeated cross-country season and conference championship in the 5,000-meter run.

But despite his success in distance running, Lalang said he prefers sprints and events that cover shorter distances.

Sambu, who won the Pac-10 championship in the 1,500-meter run last spring, was redshirted for the 2011 cross-country season and hasn’t competed since his conference championship.

“I am very excited to compete,” Sambu said. “I expect to run my personal best time but it won’t be anything big because it’s my first race.”

Cross-country and track and field director Fred Harvey and associate head track and field coach James Li will lead a stacked Wildcat lineup during 2012 season.

“I think this season will be different from all the seasons that I have been here because the boys are doing really well and our freshmen are strong,” Sambu said.

Two-time NCAA shot-put champion junior Julie Labonte, two-time NCAA champion high-jumper Brigetta Barrett, relay member senior Georganne Moline and 10,000-meter distance runner Jen Bergman are all defending conference champions that return on the women’s side.

Barrett was also named the 2011 Field Scholar Athlete of the Year and is ranked No. 6 in the world after placing first at the World University Games this summer. She and Labonte both made the preseason 2012 Bowerman Award women’s watch list.

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