XC Teams Enter NCAA West Regional With NCAA Aspirations

The Meet: The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams travel to the Pacific Northwest to compete in the NCAA West Regional Saturday, Nov. 13. The meet, hosted by the University of Portland, will be held at Blue Lake State Park in Gresham, Ore. The men's 10,000m race begins at 10 a.m. (PST) and the 5,000m women's race follows at 11 a.m. The top two teams from the nine regions nationwide advance to the NCAA Championships (Nov. 23, Bloomington, Ind.), as well as 13 at large teams from the various regions. Weather will likely play a factor in the meet. Portland is expected to have a high at the mid-50s and scattered showers on Saturday.

Who's Going?: Competing for the Arizona women (No. 24 in the nation) will be: Mandee Ash, Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Tara Chaplin, Erin Doherty, Katrin Engelen and Maia Wright. The men (No. 4) will field a team of: Mike Cramer, Micheil Jones, David Lopez, Jeremy Lyon, Brent Pederson, Tom Prindiville, and Steve Smith. Both Arizona teams will face some of the top teams in the nation, as the West is considered to be the region in the country. The West Region consists of teams from the Pac-10, West Coast, Big West and schools from the Mountain West, Big Sky and WAC that are at altitudes under 3,000 feet.

Going Polling: The Arizona men moved up two spots to No. 4 in this week's MONDO Cross Country poll. The Wildcat women were out of the rankings for on week, but are back in the poll at No. 24.

On the women's side: Sophomore Tara Chaplin steps 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, freshmen Kimberly Bates and Mandee Ash and senior Maia Wright give the Wildcats quality depth at the bottom of their order. Senior Kristen Parrish is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in her right leg.

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 have also been part of a tight Arizona pack this season.

Head Coach Dave Murray: Murray is the dean of coaches at UA, as he is entering 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 Regional: The Arizona women won the NCAA West Regional last year behind the strength of Amy Skieresz's individual win. The Arizona men finished in a tie for fourth, and Abdi Abdirahman won the individual title.

Last Meet: 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.

In Review: 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, as well. His time ranks No. 9 in UA history, and it qualified him to run at the NCAA Championships where he finished 20th. Jones also has very good speed, which he showed by finishing third in the 1,500m at the Pac-10 Championships after winning his qualifying heat at the meet.

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: "This week on both the men's and women's side, the main emphasis is to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Second is as good as first here. Of course, you want to win the race, but the biggest thing is to get to the NCAAs. With the men, that is going to be a lot easier than on the women's side. I think that we are going to have to be in the top four (on the women's side) to advance to the NCAA meet. We are going to have to be in the top four and beat UCLA. They (UCLA) really helped themselves by finishing 10th at the Pre-Nationals because they beat a lot of good teams. So, at this meet, if we could beat UCLA, that would really help our cause. Even if we get fifth, I think that we have an outside chance at making it. Our women are going to have to go out there and run at a different level that we have been. They can't be tentative. Last year, we went in there to finish third, and we ended up winning because they were so relaxed. We are capable of it, so we just have to go out there and do it."

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