Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #10- Arizona

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: James Li (12th Season)
2012 National Finish- 6th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Elvin Kibet (Sr., 9:12 Open 3k, 15:57 5k, 33:02 10k)
  • Nicci Corbin (Jr., 4:20 1500m, 16:04 5k)
  • Amanda Russell (Sr., 9:47 Open 3k, 16:43 5k)
  • Stephanie Bulder (Jr., 16:49 5k, 35:19 10k)
  • Clea Formaz (Jr., 9:53 Open 3k, 10:12 3k Steeple)
  • Erin Menefee (Sr., 9:43 Open 3k, 10:41 3k Steeple)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Kayla Ferron (Fr., 4:52 1600m, 11:07 3200m, FL Finalist '12, 64th NXN '11)
Season Preview

Arizona is heading into the 2013 season with a lot of question marks, but two no-brainer potential All-Americans. Coach Li is a world-renowned coach for the work he has done with Bernard Lagat, Boaz and Lawi Lalang, Stephen Sambu, etc. If there is a coach that is capable of getting the group of athletes that he has ready to roll  for 2013, he can do it. 

The Wildcats will be leaning heavily on their two big guns, Elvin Kibet and Nicci Corbin. Those two girls are big-time talents and must lead Arizona in order to have a chance to be top-10. 

Elvin Kibet is the real deal. Her 5k and 10k PRs are top-notch and she is crucial to any success Arizona will have this season. Kibet was 16th at NCAAs in 2012 and is capable of scoring points somewhere in the 5-10 range. That kind of a low-stick does wonders for your overall team score. With a redshirt track season under her belt, Kibet should be fit, with a huge base, ready for a huge peak at NCAAs. 

Nicci Corbin is the other elite level athlete that is a vital piece to the puzzle for Coach Li's squad. Corbin has good range from 1500m to 5k which helps her nicely for 6k xc races. Corbin was awesome in the middle of the cross country season in 2012, but struggled a little bit at NCAAs. Corbin is a potential All-American, and for Arizona to be top-10, which they are capable of, she needs to find her self in the top-40 in Terre Haute.

The good news is that Arizona has some good core contributors that, if they step up this season, can keep the spread tight and hopefully help push Kibet and Corbin. Amanda Russell is the most likely no. 3 runner for the Wildcats and has had some success in cross country in the past. Russell looked good in the West Regional (which is brutally good), but similarly to Corbin, the wheels fell off at NCAAs. Russell has good track PRs and the fact that she knows she must rise to the occasion will help keep her motivated throughout the off-season and heading into the 2013 cross country year. 

Stephanie Bulder, Clea Formaz and Erin Menefee are solid pack runners that will be in the mix for the rest of the spots in the top seven. Coach Li desperately needs one of these girls to find another gear within themselves and step up to be the no. 4-6 runners. 

The lone recruit that the Wildcats brought in that will help out immediately is Kayla Ferron. With solid track PRs and quality high school cross country experience, she is just what Coach Li needed to fill the space that the seniors that graduated left. Ferron could be looking at being the no. 4 runner this year and if she can do so, will really help push the girls up front (no one wants to get beat by a freshman). 

Arizona has a brutal path to get to the NCAA meet having to get out of the Pac-12s and the West Regional to get there. The points must come early in the season to solidify their spot in Terre Haute. The good news is that they have some girls up front that will score low points and can keep them in the hunt of a top-10 team. If Russell, Ferron, and others do not respond like they should, Arizona will struggle to be top-10. On the other hand, if they can roll up front and step up, the Wildcats are once again another top program in the NCAA. 

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