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Women's cross country battles elements to secure best finish in school history

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Robert I Black | The Daily Wildcat Photo courtesy of Robert Black/Arizona Athletics Maria Larsson (right) runs in the NCAA Cross Country Championship on Saturday in Terre Haute Ind.

The Arizona women’s cross country team braved miserable weather, slips, falls and mud puddles to take second place at the NCAA Championships on Saturday, making history with its best NCAA finish ever. The team competed on a slippery course in Terre Haute, Ind., with two runners earning All-America honors.

The team only fell behind the No.1-ranked Providence, which earned 141 points, while Arizona earned 197. Butler took third place with 200 points, and Michigan took fourth with 215 points.
“I’m just really so proud of the whole team,” head coach James Li said.

Senior Elvin Kibet led Arizona in the race and took 15th place with a time of 20:27. She contributed 10 points to the team. Sophomore Nicci Corbin came in 22nd place with a time of 20:33 and contributed 13 points.

Freshman Maria Larsson took 42nd place with a time of 20:47 and added 26 points to Arizona’s score. Sophomore Kayla Beattie came in 90th place with a time of 21:15 and gave the team 64 points.

Junior Stephanie Bulder was the final scored runner and finished in 112th place with a time of 21:24 and contributed 84 points. Senior Erin Menefee came in 163rd place with a time of 21:44. Junior Hanna Peterson took 248th place with a time of 23:03.

“The team confidence was pretty strong, I would say,” Corbin said. “Even though the weather conditions were pretty poor, pretty cold and miserable, we were confident because we’re all tough and we’re capable of pain and enduring it.”

Kibet and Corbin earned All-America honors with Kibet placing 15th and Corbin placing 22nd. Larsson just missed the required placement, coming in 42nd.

“My goal was to get All-American,” Kibet said. “I wanted to place a little better, but the conditions and weather, you know. 15th place — I think it was good.” She earned the honor for a second year in a row.

The women were unable to practice on the course a couple of days prior to the race because of mud. Temperatures reached around 30 degrees the day of the race. The start line was moved up 100 meters at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center because puddles covered the first start line position, making the course 5,900 meters instead of 6,000. Beattie even slipped and fell during the race due to the course’s poor condition.

“It was unfortunate that Kayla [Beattie] fell and that definitely slowed her down,” Li said. He added that he thought the team might have performed better with a firmer course.

“It’s hard to say, ‘What if?’” Li said. “It’s the way it is and that’s called cross country. You’re not running on the track, that’s just life.”

The team brought home its second place trophy yesterday, and now, some runners look forward to the short break prior to the start of the indoor season.

“I am really proud of the team,” Kibet said. “Despite all the stuff we went through, I feel like being second in the nation is just unbelievable.”

— Follow Brittney Smith @BrittSmith14


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