By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 16, 2002
The UA cross country team competed in the Aztec Invitational this past weekend, and though it was the first taste of Division I competition for many of the Wildcats, both teams gained valuable experience in a solid first meet.
The Wildcats sent 10 freshmen, out of their 17 runners, to compete in San Diego. The men were able to finish second and the women finished sixth.
"We did pretty well," said head coach James Li, who was hired as UA's new coach over the summer. "Going in there with how young we are, I'm pretty happy with how we performed."
"We got out there and did what we had to do," junior Mark Anderson said.
The men's team scored 63 points and finished second behind a tough Northern Arizona team that had five out of the six top finishers.
Anderson was the only non-Lumberjack to finish in the top five. Anderson finished fifth with a time of 25:46 in the 8,000-meter race.
"I was definitely happy to break them up a little bit. Any time you play NAU or ASU there is a little bit of added incentive," Anderson said.
Junior Eric Bowen was the next Wildcat to finish. Bowen placed 12th with a time of 26:45 and not far behind him was sophomore Josh Ludwig in 14th place with a time of 26:52. Finishing off the Wildcats' scoring were juniors Wade Juntunen in 15th place (26:56) and Craig Pansing in 17th (27:07).
The women's team tallied 161 points, good for sixth in the team competition. The Wildcat roster was freshmen heavy and it showed. The top six runners for UA were all freshmen with no previous Division I meet experience.
Freshman Jenny Sears led the Wildcats with a 24th-place finish in the 5,000m race. Sears had a time of 19:38. Finishing 28th and 30th, respectively, were red-shirt freshmen Adrienn Goeller (19:57) and Robin Tiemey (20:09). Closing out the scoring for the women were red-shirt freshmen Michi Hirakawa-Wong with a 36th-place finish (20:33) and Susan Mortensen at 43rd place (21:02).
Li said the most important thing coming out of this meet was the experienced gained by his young team.
"They learned a lot about how to handle their nerves," Li said. "It is definitely going to get better and I hope they can improve."
The UA will not compete next weekend, but will resume competition Sept. 28 when both teams travel to Minneapolis for the Roy Griak Invitational.
"We have a couple guys that competed in their first meet," Anderson said. "Right now we are just trying to get into the swing of things moving from track to cross country."