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Wildcat XC Teams Face Nation's Best At NCAA Championships

The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams conclude their season Monday, Nov. 23 at the NCAA Championships in Bloomington, Ind. The Wildcats will face the top teams in the nation at the meet, held at the Indiana University Golf Course. The men will run their 10,000m race at 11 a.m. (EST), and the women's 5,000m race follows at 12:15 p.m. The weather in Bloomington about an hour south of Indianapolis has been warm of late. Temperatures are expected to be around 50 next Monday, however, colder temps and even snow could move in.

Who's Going?: Competing for the Arizona women will be: Mandee Ash, Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty, and Katrin Engelen. The men will field a team of: Mike Cramer, Micheil Jones, David Lopez, Jeremy Lyon, Brent Pederson, Tom Prindiville, and Steve Smith. This meet brings together 31 teams from across the nation on both the men's and women's sides. The top two teams from each of the nine regionals around the country, plus 13 at-large teams will compete at the meet. The Arizona men advanced by virtue of a second place finish at the West Regional, while the women made it as an at-large team.

On the women's side: Sophomore Tara Chaplin has stepped into the top slot in the Arizona lineup this season after an excellent freshman season as the No. 2 runner on the squad. Sophomore Erin Doherty and junior Katrin Engelen have been the Wildcats' No. 2 and 3 runners this year, Sophomore Jennifer Burris, and freshmen Kimberly Bates and Mandee Ash give the Wildcats quality depth at the bottom of their order. Seniors Kristen Parrish and Maia Wright are both out for the remainder of the season with leg injuries.

And for the men: Senior Micheil Jones has stepped into the No. 1 slot in the men's lineup, and proven to be one of the best runners in the nation this year. Junior David Lopez and sophomore Steve Smith have been solid in the No. 2 and 3 spots for the Wildcats. Seniors Jeremy Lyon and Brent Pedersen lead a core of returners including senior Mike White, and sophomores Tom Prindiville and Mike Cramer that have formed a tight Arizona pack this season.

Head Coach Dave Murray: Murray is the dean of coaches at UA, as he is in his 33nd year. He has coached three NCAA Cross Country champions and more than 100 All-Americans in Track and Field and Cross Country.

Last Year's NCAA Meet: The Wildcat women finished 11th, while the Arizona men were 16th at last season's NCAA Championships. Then-seniors Abdi Abdirahman and Amy Skieresz both finished second individually. Skieresz was the favorite entering the meet, but was slowed by a benign tumor on her right femur. She led most of the race, but was beaten by Michigan's Katie McGregor in the final 600 meters. Abdirahman also led much of the race in a tough dual with Colorado's Adam Goucher. Goucher, however, took over in the final 1,000m to earn the win.

Last Meet: The Arizona men advanced to the NCAA Championships with a second place finish at the NCAA West Regional, Nov. 13. Senior Micheil Jones led the Wildcats, finishing third in the individual race. Junior David Lopez was 12th and senior Brent Pedersen was 17th. Arizona's women finished sixth, but advanced to the NCAA Championships with an at large bid. Sophomore Tara Chaplin was the Wildcats' top finisher in 12th. Sophomores Erin Doherty and Jennifer Burris and junior Katrin Engelen finished 33rd, 34th and 35th, respectively.

In Review: Arizona's men won the Pac-10 Championship at the El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach, Calif. The Wildcats stopped the three-year winning streak of Stanford in the process. Micheil Jones finished second, as Arizona had five runners in the top 11. The Arizona women were fifth, led by Tara Chaplin's seventh place finish... The Wildcat men finished third at the NCAA Pre-Meet, led by senior Micheil Jones' fifth place effort. The women's team was also led by a fifth place finish by Tara Chaplin. However, the Arizona women finished 19th at the meet... The Arizona men finished second, while the women were seventh at the Stanford Invitational on Oct. 2. Micheil Jones took home the men's title, and Tara Chaplin was the women's top finisher in 11th... The Arizona men and women both took home the titles at the Aztec Invitational, hosted by San Diego State, on Sept. 18. The men were led by Micheil Jones, who won his second straight race, while Tara Chaplin won the race on the women's side... The Arizona men's team won the team title at the Asics/UC-Irvine Invitational in Huntington Beach, Calif. The Wildcat women finished second to Arizona State at the meet. Individually, Arizona took home both titles, as Micheil Jones and Tara Chaplin won the first cross country races of their Arizona careers. Jones outdistanced himself from the men's field, winning the 8,000m event in 24:35.20. Chaplin won a tighter race, finishing the 5,000m course in 17:32.10. The Arizona men finished in a tight pack after Jones, with David Lopez, Steve Smith and Brent Pedersen finishing seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Tom Prindiville finished 11th. For the women, Katrin Engelen was 10th, Kristen Parrish was 13th, Erin Doherty was 20th and Kimberly Bates was 25th.

No Ordinary Jones: Senior Micheil Jones entered the season with the difficult task of replacing last year's No. 1 runner, Abdi Abdirahman, who was one of the best distance runners in UA history. Jones, however, has proved that he is quite capable himself. This year, Jones has captured the individual titles at his first three races. On Oct. 2 at the Stanford Invitational, Jones won the race in 24:19, outkicking the field by over 80 meters. He also won at the Asics/UCI Invitational and the Aztec Invitational. During the track and field season, he showed that he has developed into a fine distance runner, running 13:52.46 in the 5,000m at the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford. He finished second at the Pac-10 Championships this season and was third at the NCAA West Regional. His time ranks No. 9 in UA history, and it qualified him to run at the NCAA Championships where he finished 20th.

Sophomore Sensation: Tara Chaplin had one of the best freshmen seasons in UA history last year when she competed in five NCAA Championship events 98 XC, 99 Indoor 3,000m and 5,000m, and 99 Outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m. She finished fourth in UA's first four cross country meets of the season, behind only teammate Amy Skieresz. Chaplin finished 12th at the Pac-10 Championshps, 14th at the NCAA West Regional and 64th at the NCAA Championships. During the track and field season, Chaplin earned two All-America honors, finishing 10th in the Indoor 5,000m and 10th in the Outdoor 10,000m. She also won the Pac-10 title in the 5,000m. Chaplin won the first cross country title of her career, the Asics-UCI Invitational, Sept. 6. It did not take long for her to win her second career title, the following week at the Aztec Invitational.

Murray's Musings: "First off, we are very pleased to have both teams going to the NCAA Championships. We ran good races at the West Regional meet. The women showed that they are much better than how they ran at the Pac-10 Championships a couple of weeks ago. Our men have continued to run well all the way through the season. I think that there are seven or eight teams who have a good shot at the top four on the men's side. I think that Arkansas is the favorite going in, but that Stanford has a shot, too. We beat Stanford this year, and have been right in there, so I think that we have a chance to do very well. On the women's side, we are not as strong as we have been in some years. We have a very young team with no seniors and only one junior running at the meet. This is definitely going to be a good learning experience for us, but I think that we can also have a good performance."

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