Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona tries to hold off Stanford in Pac-10 Championship
Cross country is a tale of two seasons -large meets and championship meets. The championship half starts tomorrow when both the UA men's and women's cross country teams travel to Seattle to compete in the Pacific 10 Conference Championships.
Repeat will be on the mind of the men's side.
The No. 10 Wildcats prepare to defend their conference title as No. 3 Stanford seeks redemption from last year's defeat.
In Arizona's favor and the driving force behind the team this year, will be the fact that it returns five of the top six runners from Pac-10 championship team.
"We're the defending champions and we want to go in and defend our titles," head coach Dave Murray said.
If UA is able to repeat, it will be an accomplishment the Wildcats haven't done since the 1985-86 seasons.
Junior Mike Cramer, the team's top finisher for most of the season is ready to defend the title.
"We are in a unique position this year because we seem to be coming on stronger every meet," Cramer said. "On any given day anybody can beat anyone."
The favorite once again will be Stanford but the Wildcats will face strong competition from ranked Pac-10 schools. After Stanford, Oregon comes in ranked No. 13, Washington is No. 27 and Arizona State is No. 29.
"We have a good shot at the top three maybe top two, but we're not conceding that we can't win like we did last year," Murray said. "If we go in there and run our very, very, very best, we'll go in there and run with them."
On the women's side the No. 8 Wildcats will face powerhouses ranging from the favored No. 2 Stanford Cardinal to in-state rival No. 4 Arizona State.
In the latest rankings, the Pac-10 was well represented having four schools within the top eight - the other school being No. 6 Washington.
What makes the biggest difference for Murray is the change the women's team has progressively made throughout the year.
"We are much, much better than we were last year," Murray said. "In all of our races we have gotten better."
Arizona's team will be lead by standout junior Tara Chaplin, who Murray expects to vie for the individual title.
The competition will be tough but not insurmountable as there won't be any competitors that Chaplin hasn't defeated this year from the top four schools.
"I think she has a shot at challenging for the Pac-10 title," Murray said noting that Chaplin defeated all the Stanford runners at the Pre-NCAA championships on Oct. 4 in Ames, Iowa.