Arizona cross-country will compete in their 2009 opener tomorrow, taking on fellow state universities NAU and ASU in Flagstaff.
And if there is such thing as a home-course advantage, the NAU Lumberjacks probably have one.
""You can definitely feel it,"" head coach James Li said of the city's elevation. ""But that's good. We're going to be running our first team competition there, which is kind of a good look at everyone.""
Since the meet will not help or hurt the team's chances in Pacific 10 Conference or NCAA meets, the Wildcats will possibly hold out top runners, allowing Li to focus on the performances of the less-proven runners, senior Dylan Fitzpatrick said.
Scouting the Lumberjacks, Li said they have a ""geographical advantage"" in dealing with the elevation. That conjecture was proven true last year when NAU beat both of the Division I schools.
""I think (the elevation is) mental and physical,"" junior Maggie Callahan said. ""I did it my freshman year and I don't remember anything different with the elevation.
""We did a workout last year, though, but I did notice being a little short of breath,"" she added. ""I think if it's something you're thinking about, you'll notice it more.""
The trip up north will also serve to improve team chemistry. Fitzpatrick said past teams have bunked in cabins together and have done team-bonding activities during the day.
""It's almost like a mini-cross-country camp,"" Li added.