By Jason Kleinman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 21, 2005
After dominating the NCAA Western Regional in Palo Alto, Calif., on Nov. 12, the Arizona men's cross country team has a bigger prize in sight with the 10,000-meter NCAA Championship race today in Terre Haute, Ind.
"We'll definitely try to do our best," said Arizona head coach James Li. "If we indeed win, great, but if we don't, then we really have achieved a lot this season as a team."
With four runners finishing in the top six places in Palo Alto, Arizona earned an automatic berth to today's race by easily snapping Stanford's run of 10 consecutive Western Regional titles.
Led by junior Robert Cheseret, who won the race, the Wildcat men have a tough challenge ahead of them, running against competitors from No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2
Arizona won the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 30, in which Wisconsin finished fifth.
Arkansas hosted the Chili Pepper Invitational on Oct. 15, and placed first, as Arizona finished second.
Cheseret came in ninth in last year's NCAA Championship and said he has greater goals in mind for himself and the team.
"I want to go for the individual title," he said. "As a team, at least being in the top four and get a trophy - that's what we are shooting for."
For the Wildcats to be successful, they will need strong running from senior Jonah Maiyo, juniors Obed Mutanya and Moses Mpanga and sophomore Mohamed Trafeh, all of whom helped dethrone the Cardinal on their home course.
"Everyone needs to run (how) we did at Regionals," Cheseret said. "If everyone does, we'll be in a good position."
The biggest surprise for this team has been the strong improvement from Maiyo, who finished ninth at the Pacific 10 Championships in Tucson and fourth at the Western Regional.
"Jonah has made tremendous improvement from earlier in the season until now," Li said. "You can just tell he has been making very steady progress."
Maiyo said he credits better training and recovery from an injury he suffered at the end of last season for his recent success.
With the race being held in Terre Haute, a cold climate is expected with snow already blanketing the ground in parts of the state last week, but Arizona does not expect the weather to be a real factor.
Li said the team been trying to prepare and do everything they can to get ready for it, while saying that it won't be the only group trying to adjust.
"The effect should be the same on everyone," he said.