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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Young UA cross country ready for season

A young Arizona cross country team will be competing in its season’s first meet in Flagstaff at noon on Saturday. The George Kyte Classic will be the first time for Arizona’s new runners to get experience and clock in times.

When asked how the team was looking in practice, Arizona cross country head coach James Li said, “it’s a little bit unknown because of a really young team.”

One thing Li does know is that the team has a lot of promising, young talent. He is still trying to figure out what the athletes can do and how he can use them.

Arizona lost many runners from the previous year and will look for this to be a developmental year, especially for the freshmen. Li said he does not have any high expectations for the first meet.

“Cross country is a unique sport. It doesn’t matter too much how they run,” Li said. “It’s more or less like a time trial for us, to go out there and get some experience. We aren’t specifically looking for results.”

As for the season as a whole, Li knows the Wildcats are in a very competitive division.

“The Pac-12 [Conference] is really, really great. We repeatedly have five teams in the top 25,” Li said. “I would be happy to be in the middle of the Pac. With the personnel we have, we will be a top team in a couple years. The Pac-12 is the most competitive conference in the country.”

Although Arizona has a young team, many of the up-and-coming athletes could become superstars for the Wildcats.

“We have a lot of great runners out of high school,” Li said.

Li just isn’t sure how to use his athletes; he might choose to redshirt some of them. Li will be turning to junior Collins Kibet and senior Molly Callahan to lead the new team. He also expects them to be the Wildcats’ most competitive runners.

Kibet finished 35th overall in the NCAA West Regionals. Callahan finished 34th overall in the 6k at last year’s Pac-12 Conference Championships. Li said he looks forward to seeing them both improve and excel in the upcoming season.

He hopes that through practice and the meets, “the athletes will develop and become stronger,” making the Wildcats more competitive. “It takes time to develop,” Li said.

The Wildcats have six regular season meets, two of them at home. They will be traveling to Kentucky, Minneapolis, Seattle, Colfax, Wash., Flagstaff and Tempe this season. Their two home meets of the season will be on Sept. 18 and Oct. 9.

Follow Hunter McAdams on Twitter.

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