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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona cross country looks to build on 2011 success

Daily Wildcat File Photo Lawi Lalang

The Arizona men and women’s cross-country teams have done well in recent years. With national champion Lawi Lalang on the men’s, and a women’s team that at one point was ranked in the top 10 last season, the two teams are looking to find similar success in 2012 starting Saturday afternoon at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Ariz. The competition will be held at Buffalo Park, with the women competing at 1:30 p.m. and the men at 2:15 p.m.

Head cross-country coach James Li was satisfied with how both teams performed last season but would have liked to have seen more.

“Last season our women’s team was solid,” Said Li. “They performed well at most of the meets … At the NCAA regional meets we did great but there were some meets where we showed inconsistency and totally underperformed. We ended up finishing 19th at nationals … we were hoping to finish better.”

With regards to the men’s team, Li was happy for the individual success of most of the athletes but due their experience and an overall lack of depth, Arizona struggled a bit.

“Our men’s team was really young and thin, we really didn’t have a lot of depth in terms of quality,” Said Li. “So as a team we did okay, but the results weren’t very good other than Lawi Lalang.”

Women’s Cross-Country Team

The women’s team enters the season looking to continue its recent run of success. In their preseason rankings, the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) ranked Arizona’s women team 14th in the country and 4th in the NCAA West Region. Li doesn’t think much about rankings this early, but is happy for the recognition all the same.

Senior Jen Bergman, who finished the season strong last year and was a constant competitor all season long, leads the team into her final year.

“Our goal for the women’s team is to be top 10 in the nation,” Li said. “I don’t think anyone can say we don’t have a chance to be even higher.”

Men’s Cross-Country Team

The men’s team is lead by Lalang and senior Stephen Sambu.

Lalang had an extremely successful 2011 cross-country season as he went undefeated and won the individual cross-country national championship. Last year, Sambu redshirted during the cross-country season, but in 2010 Sambu won multiple races and finished as an All-American.

“We look a lot better on the men’s side this season,” Li said. “If the other guys can stay close to Stephen (Sambu) and Lawi (Lalang) then we should have a tremendous team.” Li would go on to say the goal for the season would to be to make it to nationals and finish strong.

Both teams start this Saturday at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Ariz. The meet will be scrimmage of sorts, runners such as Lalang and Sambu are not expected to compete.

“One of my goals for this season is for me and Stephen (Sambu) to help motivate and push the rest of the guys on the team,” Lalang said.

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