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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cross country has mixed bag in Flag

In the Wildcat’s first cross country meet of the season, both the men’s and No. 8 women’s teams met expectations. The women finished first and the men third in their respective divisions at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Ariz.

As assistant coach Eric Dawson said before the meet, the first race of the season was meant to get the new runners race experience. Yet she did expect for both sides to win, despite having the unranked men’s team up against favored No. 12 NAU and No. 29 ASU.

As freshman and Arizona’s top-placing male runner Kenji Bierig recounts, Dawson was not fully satisfied with the results.

“Obviously we didn’t all perform at the level we were expecting but, you know, (it) just reminded us that for most of us this is our first collegiate race,” Bierig said of Dawson’s post-meet feelings. “Really, it’s just trying to assess where we are right now in the season and what we should expect in the weeks to come.”

Freshman Haley Stenquist led the No. 8 women’s side on Saturday at the NAU-hosted meet, finishing with a time of 17:25 in her 5,000-meter race to finish second overall and first against registered collegiate runners. Junior Melanie McGrath placed just behind her with a time of 17:35, and sophomore Erin Menefee finished seventh overall and sixth in points to finish off the top 10 for Arizona.

In total, all of the runners for the women’s side finished in the overall top 25, reminiscent of the national ranking the team currently holds. This successful performance at Buffalo Park is no surprise for the Wildcats, even with the team running mostly their young members.

In total, the women’s team finished with a total score of 32 points, placing them three points ahead of ASU’s 35, giving the Wildcats first place in the university division.

The men, however, were not quite as successful, finishing with a score of 87, placing them behind both state rivals ASU and NAU.
Bierig finished 14th overall and 12th in points to lead the Wildcats with a time of 27:23 in the 8,000-meter race. Senior Abdi Hassan finished less than a minute behind with a time of 28:08.9, placing him 17th overall and 15th in points.

For Bierig and several other runners on both teams, Saturday was their first time competing in a collegiate race. Bierig cited that distance was the biggest change from high school, where they ran only a 5K for men, but he also mentioned the increase in the competition level.

“(In) high school you get to move through the pack easier,” Bierig said. “And this is much harder with obviously a lot more experienced people who have done this distance before and are more competitive and faster.”

The result for the men is not overly surprising considering the ranks of both NAU (12th) and ASU (29th). Additionally, both rivals included more of their experienced runners in the race, while Arizona ran only freshmen other than Hassan and sophomore Rory McLeod.

With the first race complete, the Wildcats will return home from the high elevations and cool weather of Flagstaff to compete in their next meet at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson, on Sept. 16.

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