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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


XC heads to NCAA nationals

The Arizona women’s cross-country team is boldly going where no Wildcat women’s team has gone since 2001. And junior Mohamud Ige is the first of the men’s team to make the journey since 2006. The women’s team and Ige are headed to the NCAA National Championships at Indiana State University today.

At the beginning of the season, those results may not have seemed possible. The majority of the women’s team consisted of untested freshman runners. Ige battled through a season filled with injury and illness, which plagued the whole men’s team.

However, those questions have subsided after the team’s tremendous accomplishment in earning a spot in nationals today.

“”We’re just excited for the ladies to be able to make it and also for (Ige) to run really so well,”” said head coach James Li. “”We’re just excited and hopefully this’ll be a start for a nice train for the future.””

Ige, the only participant from the Arizona men’s team, is coming off an exceptional regional race last weekend. He placed eighth out of 182 runners to earn an individual qualifying spot for the national meet.

“”For (Ige), he’s going there as an individual and I would hope he will be able to get a top-40 finish and become an All-American,”” Li said.

If Ige continues his current pace, that should be no problem. In the Pacific 10 Conference meet, he placed 20th, and then eighth against even tougher competition at the West Regional meet.

Meanwhile, the women’s team earned an at-large bid after its fifth-place team finish at the West Regional meet. For its first national meet since 2001, the team is ranked No. 28 in the nation, and Li expects it to finish around that spot.

“”I think we’re definitely going there trying to be in the top 25,”” he said. “”I think that’s something that will be a good goal and we are capable of doing it.””

The team will be led into Indiana by junior Maggie Callahan. Five freshmen and two sophomores will round out the group.

The women are also expected to have freshman Lauren Smith back after a last-minute scratch from the regional race because of a foot injury. If she is not ready, fellow freshman Megan Meyer will fill in again, as she did for Smith at regionals.

“”She (Meyer) has been training really well and I think she would definitely (be) a good person to have to step in and help out the team,”” said Li.

Regardless of how the team fills out, Callahan thinks she and her teammates are ready.

“”It’s going to be the biggest and most competitive race we’ve done all season,”” she said. “”Not necessarily size-wise, but we haven’t been in races with as many good people. That’s the most intimidating part, but we’re ready for it.””

The team has taken it easy in practice the past week to make sure it is well-rested for the meet. In addition, Callahan said they’ve been running in the morning to try to get used to the cold.

In the end, the team is preparing to build its future, no matter where it places.

“”I think it’s just really great for our university to have a team like this and that now we’ll be getting back to national prominence,”” Li said. “”I think we’re looking forward to this new beginning.””

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