By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The 13th-ranked Arizona women's cross country team hopes to have its finest race of the season today and bring home the Wildcats' best finish ever at the NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa.
"Our ultimate goal is to finish in the top four, so we can take home an NCAA trophy," UA head coach Dave Murray said.
The Arizona women will be running in their fifth straight national championship race after receiving one of six at-large berths from an NCAA committee. The Wildcats finished third overall at last weekend's district finals in Woodland, Wash. Freshman Amy Skieresz won the 5,000-meter district race in 16 minutes, 42 seconds to capture her fourth consecutive individual title.
The UA men's team was left out of the NCAA race, despite a strong third-place showing at the district meet. However, sophomore Bob Keino will compete as an individual after receiving an at-large bid. Arizona's absence in Iowa marks the first time since 1979 the men's team has not been invited to the nationals.
At last year's finals in Fayetteville, Ark., the Wildcat women's team placed 10th overall, giving it the second-best NCAA finish in team history. The men's team, which finished third overall, were led by NCAA champion Martin Keino.
Murray said he anticipated the race to be close, with a number of teams battling for the top spot. Colorado, Providence and defending champion Villanova are all among the favorites this year, he said.
Skieresz, who has dominated since the third race of the year in Montana, will face her toughest test of the season. Defending champion Jennifer Rhines of Villanova and Kathy Butler of Wisconsin are considered by Murray as the two favorites.
"I expect Amy to do well again," said Murray, in his 29th year as head coach. "She could very well finish in the top five, which would be an incredible accomplishment for a freshman."
Joan Hansen's sixth-place performance in the 1981 NCAA Championships marks the best outing for an Arizona woman.
Junior Viola Schaffer, who is recovering from a sore knee, hopes to improve over last season and garner All-America status. Last year, Schaffer ran the 5,000m course in 17:44 and finished in 30th place. The top 25 runners are named to the All-America team.
The Wildcats also return two more runners from last year's NCAA squad: seniors Ann Colonna and Lisa Quaintance. Freshman Emily Nay and sophomores Virginia Camacho and Tone Bratteng make up the rest of the lineup for today's race.
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