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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

At the starting line

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona hosts the Dave Murray Invitational cross country meet at Dell Urich Golf Course, Tucson, Ariz., September 18, 2009.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona hosts the Dave Murray Invitational cross country meet at Dell Urich Golf Course, Tucson, Ariz., September 18, 2009.

The men’s and women’s cross-country teams are ready to start the season and prove that last year was no fluke. The young teams will have a target on their backs after their success last year. Associate head coach James Li will be able to examine the type of talent he has tomorrow when the teams compete at Northern Arizona University.

“”This Saturday is sort of our tester,”” Li said. “”Cross-country is really unique when it comes to the season and the schedule. We really don’t have a win-loss record to talk about.

“”This early in the season it doesn’t matter at all; it will start to matter toward the end of September. Early September has no bearing whatsoever as to our team standing at the end of the season.””

The men’s team will have to replace the graduated All-American Mohamud Ige, and assistant coach Erin Dawson believes that some of the runners from this year’s recruiting class can do the job.

Stephen Sambu, a junior transfer from Rend Lake Community College, was widely regarded as the top junior college recruit last year and is expected to make a huge splash for the Wildcats in 2010.

Sambu will get his chance tomorrow because, according to Li, the established runners on the team will have the weekend off in an effort to give the fresh faces a chance to show what they have.

Last year the women’s team was able to run their way into the national championship, something that had not been done at Arizona in eight years. Such a successful season has opened eyes across the country.

“”It put us on the map, people are giving us recognition and taking note of our team right now,”” Dawson said. “”We went there and we made nationals, but we didn’t perform as well as we wanted. It left everybody hungry.””

Jennifer Bergman was the first Wildcat to cross the finish line at the 6000-meter race at the national meet, barely edging out senior Maggie Callahan. Callahan and Bergman are expected to be the top two runners for Arizona this season.

“”Last year our goal was to make it to nationals, and this year we definitely plan on making it to nationals,”” Bergman said.

Bergman’s optimistic thinking spreads throughout the team.

“”Our women last year made it to the nationals with a very young team, this year most are returning. I would expect them to go back to nationals and finish higher than last year,”” Dawson added. “”On the men’s side we are still young. They are focused and I think we are definitely going to see some improvement.””

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