AZ cross country teams ready after Kyte Classic tune-up

If the results of the George Kyte Classic earlier this month are any indication, the University of Arizona cross country team is ready to kick off the season this weekend.

The Wildcats will host Arizona State in their first and only home cross country meet of the season in the Dave Murray Invitational.

Both teams used the Kyte Classic, held in Buffalo Park  in Flagstaff, to tune up for the start of the season.  Northern Arizona hosted the event, which was the lone home meet for the Lumberjacks this season.

The Wildcats women’s team took first place in the 5000m event with 29 points and the men finished in second place in the 8000m with 31 points.

Both squads were led by freshmen, with Elvin Kibet finishing first for the women in a time of 17:24.1 to win her first collegiate race, and Patrick Zacharias finishing in 26:21.0, seven seconds behind Henry Lelei from Central Arizona College.

It was Zacharias’ first attempt at the 8,000m distance.  He ran mostly 5,000m races in high school.

This year’s field at the Kyte included three junior colleges, with the university section of the race scored separately from the JUCO results.

The No. 25-ranked Wildcats had a 1-2-3 sweep in the women’s competition of the university section as Kibet led the way, followed by sophomores Elizabath Apgar (18:15.9) and Melanie McGrath (18:32.3).

Northern Arizona’s men’s team, No. 3 in the national rankings, took first place in the university section for the fourth straight year.  Senior Jason Pedersen led the way with a second-place finish overall (26:22.2), followed closely in the university section by junior Andrew Belus in second place and sophomore Tim Freriks in third.   The women’s team finished in third place.

And Arizona State’s second-place finish in the women’s competition in Flag, combined with the men’s fourth-place finish, sets up the rematch with the Wildcats in a couple of days at the Dell Urich Golf Course.

It will be the first meet as a full team for the UofA men, since some of its runners sat out the Kyte Classic.

One to watch this weekend will be the debut of Stephen Sambu in a Wildcat uniform.  Sambu is a junior college transfer who won back-to-back NJCAA Division I titles while at Rend Lake College in southern Illinois.  He was the national champion in the 10k and 5k outdoor events and the 3k, 5k, and mile-run indoor.  (See PhxFan article 2-19-10)

Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks are on the road to compete in the Aztec Invitational at San Diego State University.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)