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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cross-country preps for home meet

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona men’s and women’s cross-country teams have their only chance to compete in front of a home crowd on Friday as the Wildcats host the annual Dave Murray Invitational at Dell Urich Golf Course.

For the second time this month, the Wildcats will be competing against intrastate opponents ASU and NAU. Two weeks ago at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, the Arizona women finished second while the men took third.

However, Arizona will have more athletes running this time around, and head coach James Li expects a better showing.

“Most schools aren’t going to run everyone,” Li said. “So it’s a little different from football and basketball.”

While Arizona would like to come out on top Friday, the goal of the meet is more about the development of the runners and less about winning. Next week begins the competitive leg of the season.

“I want to see the team making progress,” Li said, “[like] how they look when they race, and the kind of tactics they use.”

Both the men and women aim to compete at a national level this year, and it’s crucial to establish a good team chemistry from the start.

“We want to get a race under our legs,” UA senior Sam Macaluso said. “We’re going to go through the routine and treat it like it is a bigger meet.”

Macaluso is one of the leaders on a men’s team that returns nearly every runner from last season. Along with the addition of a couple talented freshmen, Macaluso believes the men are ready to return to an elite level.

“In ’04, ’05, ’06, we made nationals, and that’s where we want to get back to,” Macaluso said. “It’s a matter of keeping our heads on right and staying healthy.”

For the women, it will be difficult to top last season, which was tied for the best in program history. The team won the Pac-12 Conference title and finished as the runner-up at the NCAA Championships.

“I think we take each year as a whole new year,” UA senior Stephanie Bulder said. “The returning girls have experience, but we also have a lot of new girls.”

The new talent was on display in Flagstaff when senior Kristina Aubert, a transfer from Arkansas State, won the women’s three-mile race in dominating fashion.

On Friday, Aubert and the women will be closer to full strength as they continue their defense of the Pac-12 title.

“I hope that our team will get a feel of what it’s like to run together,” Bulder said. “We can use that as a starting point to carry us on.”

—Follow Ezra Amacher @EzraAmacher

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