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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cross country takes top 20 runners to compete in Minn.

    Coming off an unofficial second-place finish to ASU in the Dave Murray Invitational, Arizona’s No. 8 men’s cross country team and unranked women’s team have been propelled into the season’s first race in which the NCAA will take notice.

    This first NCAA-scored meet, the Roy Griak Invitational – which will take place in St. Paul, Minn., tomorrow – will be the Wildcats’ first away from Arizona. The race should prove to be a rigorous one, boasting the participation of more than 30 teams for each of the men’s and women’s races, not to mention the rainy forecast.

    “”The stakes are a lot higher now,”” said UA head coach James Li. “”It’s a loaded meet with a lot of good teams. We will go there and show our best runners.””

    Competing with strong squads from around the nation, Arizona will be heavily armed with their big guns, traveling with the top 10 runners on each team. This will be a crucial factor in facing No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 10 Kansas, No. 20 ASU, No. 23 Minnesota, No. 26 Virginia, No. 27 Iowa and No. 28 Michigan State.

    And who better to show than senior Robert Cheseret, who will run for the Wildcats tomorrow, making it his first appearance of the season. His competition has been postponed thus far to ensure his health, and the two-time cross country Pac-10 Player of the Year gives the team a drastic edge.

    “”I’m very excited for my first race,”” Cheseret said. “”I saw (seniors) Obed (Mutanya) and Moses (Mpanga) running (last Friday), and it makes me really want to run with them.””

    Based on past performance, this trio should make for an extremely effective weapon for Arizona.

    Mutanya, who finished in first place in last Friday’s race, now has two individual titles in eight career races with Arizona. Furthermore, he has finished in second place four times, three times trailing only Cheseret.

    Coming into the season with big plans for the team, Cheseret is using Mutanya as his accomplice.

    “”Last year Obed and I (would run) in the front (of the pack) and have the other guys following closely behind,”” he said. “”When you have a pack at the front of the race, you can easily win as a team, so we will try to do the same thing again this year.””

    Although Cheseret seems confident, it has been just more than two months since he last competed.

    “”This will be a big test for Robert,”” Li said. “”It will give us a pretty good idea of where he stands.””

    The other highly anticipated lineup returns today on the women’s side, where junior Emily McGregor will travel with the team, but it is still undetermined whether she will compete for personal reasons.

    “”After not racing last Friday, I was really pumped to run (in the Griak Invitational) … but I won’t know if I will be running until it comes down to race time,”” said McGregor, who was the first Wildcat to cross the finish line in every race in which she competed in 2005.

    “”I’m still really motivated to run better than I did last year and get better personal times,”” she added, “”but I just need my own time right now.””

    If she sits the meet out, the Wildcats will be led by sophomore Marissa Urban, who was the top finisher in Friday’s race (seventh), senior Ashley Ippolito and juniors Angelina Cabrera and Danelle Onate.

    Whether McGregor serves the team as a fellow runner or as an assistant coach figure, her presence will be valued, and she will be able to contribute in either circumstance.

    “”She is a very significant factor on the team,”” Li said.

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