By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
With the 1995 cross country season complete, Arizona head coach Dave Murray was left with a bittersweet feeling.
On one hand, Murray guided his women's team to a best-ever finish in the NCAAs, a sixth-place showing in Ames, Iowa, Nov. 20. But he said he also felt disappointment after his men's squad was not picked for the NCAA championships, the first time since 1979.
"Both teams had very solid seasons, but it was very discouraging for our men because I really felt they would have battled for a top 10 finish at the NCAAs," Murray said.
Freshman Amy Skieresz, with her second-place finish in Iowa, ran to the best NCAA finish ever for an Arizona woman. She finished just four seconds behind the winner, Wisconsin's Kathy Butler, in 16 minutes, 55 seconds.
Skieresz also won the individual titles at the Pacific 10 Conference championships in Stanford, and the District VIII championships, becoming the first Wildcat woman to do both.
"Things look great for Amy to have a very promising career," Murray said.
Junior Viola Schaffer finished a solid season as the Wildcats' second-leading scorer with a 29th-place showing at the NCAAs. Schaffer said she had hoped for stronger finishes at the districts and NCAAs, but a sore knee kept her from running at 100 percent.
"I was expecting more improvement over last year, but that is not the way it worked out for me this year," Schaffer said.
Arizona also got solid leadership and effort from seniors Ann Colonna and Lisa Quaintance, the team's co-captains.
Colonna ended her Arizona career with an All-America performance at the NCAAs, finishing second for the Wildcats in 27th-place in 17:51. Quaintance ran as Arizona's third or fourth scorer all season, and Murray said he would miss her strong leadership.
The women look to be in good shape for next season as they return four of the top six runners from this season's team. Along with Skieresz and Schaffer, freshman Emily Nay and sophomore Virginia Camacho will return next season, and senior Susan Scott and sophomore Kelly Chavez will return after missing the entire 1995 season with medical redshirts.
Murray said he also hopes to recruit two new freshmen that are in the same caliber as Skieresz and Nay.
"We came very close to our ultimate goal of a top five finish and we look extremely solid for next year," Murray said.
The men finished third in the Pac-10s and district championships, but it was not enough for an NCAA selection committee that instead selected Southern Illinois, which finished toward the bottom at the NCAAs in 22nd place.
Arizona returns four of its top five runners and hopes to rebound from this year's disappointment with an even stronger year.
Sophomore Bob Keino will return as the Wildcats' top scorer. Keino won the first two races of the year for Arizona and was good enough to earn All-America honors at this year's NCAAs, competing as an individual and finishing in 11th place. He covered the 10,000-meter course in 31:01.
"Bob is nowhere near what is he is capable of yet, but he is progressing extremely well," Murray said.
Junior Margarito Casillas completed a solid season once again for Arizona. At the Pac-10s, Casillas ran what Murray called his strongest race ever at Arizona and finished sixth overall.
The Wildcats also return junior Jon Pillow and freshman Jeff McLarty. Both were consistent scorers and should improve next season.
"With the returners we have plus a couple top recruits," Murray said, "we should have a very promising future."
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