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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona cross-country faces test in Greater Louisville Classic

Courtesy of Pac-12

The No. 12 Arizona women and unranked men’s cross-country teams will compete Saturday in the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Ky.

Saturday’s meet will mark the Wildcat’s first race of its regular season and the season debuts for senior Jen Bergman and sophomore-defending men’s individual champion Lawi Lalang.

“Saturday’s race will have good competition for us,” associate head coach James Li said. “There will be a good mix of tough schools with schools that are lower level than us.”

The men will run against two nationally ranked schools while the women will run against six, including No. 1 Washington.

Saturday will be Arizona’s first time competing in the Louisville Classic, which is home to the 2012 NCAA cross-country national championship race. Li doesn’t believe the Wildcat’s lack of familiarity with the meet will affect his team on Saturday, but he is happy that it will give the Wildcats a chance to become familiar with it before nationals.

Lalang’s national championship run headlined the men’s 2011 season. Saturday’s race will be Lalang’s first cross-country meet since winning the title. Lalang knows there will be a bigger target on his back this year compared to last, but he doesn’t believe the pressure will get to him on Saturday.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Lalang said. “I feel a lot more mature right now than I did last year, and I’m not worried about the attention on Saturday. I’m more focused on seeing how my body feels and going from there.”

Lalang’s only goals for Saturday are to test out his body and his competition, but mainly just to “do what I do.” Lalang is confident that if he stays comfortable and follows through with his plan that success will likely follow.

“My plan is to stay with the pack for the first three miles,” Lalang said. “But then start to push it, and whoever wants to come with can come.”

As for team goals, Li would like to see the rest of the Wildcats hang with Lalang and senior Stephen Sambu. Li believes the race depends heavily on the rest of the team.

Li is more upbeat about the depth of the women, and believes that the key to success is for a majority of the Wildcats to stay with the top two runners, Bergman and sophomore Elvin Kibet.

Kibet won the Wildcats previous race on Sept. 14, which has given her plenty of confidence. But she also feels great about the team going into Saturday.

“I’m very excited about Saturday’ race,” Kibet said. “As a team I think we are stronger than last year. And I think we are really going to do amazing things this year.”

Kibet said her plan for the race is to run alongside Bergman. The two are going to go easy on the first two-thirds then will push it for the final one-third of the 5000-meter race.

“Saturday’s race is sort of how I’m approaching the season,” Kibet said. “We know we are an amazing team, and we need to feel our bodies first then when we feel good push it towards the end. This way we won’t tire out.”

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