Cross country faces toughest field to date
The toughest field to date awaits the Arizona men's and women's cross country teams as they travel to Missoula, Mt., to compete in the Mountain West Classic.
Both teams are looking for their third straight victories this season.
The Wildcats opponents include BYU, Washington State, Montana, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Idaho State and the men's teams from Michigan and Oregon.
"We are definitely moving up in competition, but we also have been running very well," UA cross country coach Dave Murray said.
When asked if his teams will be affected by the added pressure, Murray said, "No not at all. We have a pretty seasoned group."
The UA women will face their stiffest test as the top-ranked and defending national champion BYU Cougars will be participating in this meet.
The women will run a longer distance, 6,000-meters instead of the usual 5,000m, which Murray believes will help some of his runners.
"I'm looking forward to watching Tara (Chaplin) run the longer distance. The longer the distance the better she gets," Murray said. "Amy (Skieresz) also runs very well on this course. She is aiming for her fourth consecutive individual victory."
Competing for the Arizona women are seniors Skieresz and Brooke Murphy, juniors Kristen Parrish, Allison Phears and Claire Becker, sophomore Katrin Engelen and freshmen Chaplin and Jennifer Burris.
"I don't know what to expect, but running the longer distance might make me a little stronger," Chaplin said. She has finished second to Skieresz in Arizona's first two meets of the season, both times by a gap of only eight seconds.
On the men's side, senior Abdi Abdirahman leads the way, looking for his third straight individual victory. Trouble is on the horizon, though, as the Wildcats' No. 2 runner, senior Jeff McLarty, is doubtful after spraining his ankle late Wednesday night.
"It's not looking good right now," McLarty said.
Despite the injury to McLarty, the team still seems optimistic
"It's hard to say how we are going to do this week. We are running real tight as a team and I feel we have a good shot," junior Micheil Jones said.
The men's team consists of seniors Abdirahman and McLarty, if healthy, plus juniors Jones and Jeremy Lyon, sophomore David Lopez, freshman Steve Smith and either redshirt freshman Mike Cramer or freshman Brent Pederson.
"Every meet gets bigger and bigger," Murray said. "The serious running is about to begin."
Mike Jenkins can be reached via e-mail at Mike.Jenkins@wildcat.arizona.edu.