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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cross Country prepares for Pac-12 championships

The Arizona men’s and women’s cross-country teams will compete at the Pac-12 Conference Championships on Friday in Oakland, Calif.

With the NCAA Championships only three weeks away, both sides need to bolster their profiles if they want to earn an at-large bid. Friday’s meet, held at Metropolitan Golf Links, will provide the perfect opportunity to do so, as both the men and women face a loaded field.

In the men’s 11,000-meter race, defending national champion and No. 1 ranked Colorado will be a heavy favorite along with No. 2 Oregon. Stanford, UCLA and Washington are also ranked in the top 15 nationally.

The women’s 6,000-meter race should be just as competitive, with six nationally ranked opponents, including No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Colorado. Arizona’s women are unranked in the national poll but place No. 13 in the west region.

“We’re not going to worry about where we finish [or] what it means for our chance to compete at nationals,” UA cross-country head coach James Li said. “We’re just going to run our race.

Given the Wildcats’ performances against other nationally competitive opponents this season, Arizona will go into both races as a heavy underdog. In what has been a rocky season, Arizona has yet to find top-to-bottom consistency to place itself with the country’s best.

Two weeks ago at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, the men finished 32nd out of 38 teams while the women finished 32nd out of 40 schools.

Arizona is riding off some momentum from the ASU Invitational last week, where freshman Bailey Roth was the top finisher on the men’s side and senior Clea Formaz was the winner in the women’s race.

“We feel like we have people performing at the level of our abilities,” Li said. “We’re going to be able to do a better job [at the Pac-12 Championships] and I think the athletes are excited about that.”In order for the Wildcats to have a shot at top-place finishes in Oakland, they will need another strong showing from those two, as well as other less-heralded runners.

Leading the men this season have been seniors Sam Macaluso and Kenji Bierig, along with sophomore Collins Kibet. The trio is expected to be among Arizona’s top finishers once again, while Roth, freshmen Patrick Leary and Jeff Gautreau, sophomore Matthew Beer and senior Jonas Legernes will also be competing.

For the women’s side, senior Kristina Aubert has led the Wildcats in each meet she’s run in, and the Pac-12 Championships should be no different. Competing with Aubert include five seniors who were on the team last season when Arizona won the conference title.

Formaz, Stephanie Bulder, Kate Penney, Hanna Peterson and Amanda Russell will all be competing in their final Pac-12 race. Junior Molly Callahn and freshmen Claire Green and Kayla Ferron will also hope to contribute to the Wildcats’ score.

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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