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Tuesday November 21, 2000

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Wildcats frozen out of national title

By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Cold weather, lack of 'mental toughness' are to blame

The UA men's and women's cross country teams, wearing lycra pants and thermal tops in an attempt to fend off subzero temperatures, left Ames, Iowa without a national title.

Both teams - competing at the NCAA Championships - finished below their own expectations in the race despite fighting temperatures as low as minus-12 degrees with wind chill.

The UA men finished 12th, while the Wildcat women finished 19th overall.

"It was not a pleasant day out there," UA head coach Dave Murray said. "They were all so cold that they couldn't get going. For us warm-weather people, it was somewhat of a disadvantage to us."

Arizona's top men's finisher, senior David Lopez, finished No. 70 with a time of 31 minutes, 27 seconds. Junior Tom Prindiville, who led all Wildcats at the NCAA Regionals, finished 89th overall. The team portion of the championships was won by Arkansas, while Keith Kelly of Providence College was the individual winner with a time of 30 minutes, 14 seconds.

"I thought the guys could finish in the top eight," Murray said. "They all ran solid (races), but nobody ran super-great."

On the women's side, the Wildcats struggled to keep up with team champion Colorado and its leader, individual champion Kara Grgas-Wheeler.

UA junior Tara Chaplin finished a disappointing 45th overall in the race and seemed to be beaten mentally, according to Murray.

"Tara's one of the top ten runners in the country," Murray said. "Even she said, 'I give up.' It's so late in the season that everyone was physically ready to run. This race became a mental challenge. We were weak, mentally. We weren't able to run well. There was not good mental toughness out of the women."

Murray said the choice of Ames as the location of the NCAA Championships angered numerous coaches.

"This year, Iowa State was the only bidder for the NCAAs," he said. "You want to go to a place that wants to put it on. We question this a lot -they're going to where the bids are. All coaches are complaining like crazy."

Murray and the Wildcats tried to combat the temperatures by bundling up and staying loose. UA players wore wool beanies in the race.

"It's no fun at all for anyone," he said. "Even for a coach standing around, it was terrible."

Despite both teams' poor finish, Murray is pleased with their season.

"I'm pleased with our season even though we didn't finish the way we wanted to," Murray said. "We got both teams to the national championships. You've got to be proud of that."

Ryan Finley can be reached at