Cross country team faces stiffest competition yet
It's not called the NCAA Pre-Meet for nothing.
When the Arizona men's and women's cross country teams travel to Lawrence, Kan., this weekend to participate in the NCAA Pre-Meet/Bob Timmons Invitational, they will each encounter five other teams ranked in the top 25.
"Outside the district meet, this is going to be the most important meet of the season for our teams," UA cross country coach Dave Murray said. "There is no question that this is going to be a very quality field this week."
On the men's side, No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Colorado, No. 4 North Carolina State, No. 11 Northern Arizona and No. 14 Montana meet the fifth-ranked Wildcats.
When asked about the strong field, junior Micheil Jones responded, "We feel pretty confident. We can't be intimidated by any of the other teams and we have to run like we are out there by ourselves."
Joining Jones in Kansas this weekend are senior Abdi Abdirahman, juniors Jeremy Lyon and Brent Pedersen, sophomore David Lopez, redshirt freshman Mike Cramer and true freshman Steve Smith. Much to the Wildcats' disappointment, senior and top flight runner Jeff McLarty will not travel with the team this weekend because he is not fully healed from an ankle injury suffered earlier in the season.
On the women's side, there is nothing but optimism about this weekend, despite facing a solid field that consists of No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 Colorado, No. 11 North Carolina State, No. 13 Northern Arizona and No. 16 Oregon. The Wildcats are ranked 10th this week.
"The kids are very excited about this meet, and they seem to be running well right now," Murray said.
Senior Amy Skieresz leads the way once again for the women. She has won her first three races this season and has only lost two races in her whole career, the 1995 and 1997 NCAA Championships.
Following Skieresz to Kansas this week are senior Brooke Murphy, juniors Kristen Parrish and Claire Becker, sophomore Katrin Engelen and freshmen Jennifer Burris and Tara Chaplin.
The weather this weekend looks to be cooler than the weather the teams are used to in Tucson, but that doesn't seem to faze Jones and his squad.
"The weather will affect us like not at all," Jones said. "We have an easier time adapting to the cooler weather than the people who come down here and try to run in the hot weather.
"I just can't wait to get there."
Mike Jenkins can be reached via e-mail at Mike.Jenkins@wildcat.arizona.edu.