by Kate Holder by tyndale


									             ead­                                                                                                    e

by Kate Holder 

    The \\"ildcats' cross-country running program has long                 "Ewryone on the team ran really well," li said,
distinguished itself among the natil)I1':; best. A successful 2005    "and \',:e won by a large margin."
season produced a bounty of accolades for this year's men's                Cheseret finished first after hreaking away from
squad,                                                                the pack and teammate. junior Obed \lutanya, who
    One day after the season-ending national championships,           followed close behind, placed second. Four of the
the ;\CAA named UA head coach James Li the West Region                team's se\'en runners also placed in the top six. The
Cross Country Coach of the Year; team captain, junior Robert          one-two finish was a repeat of the Pac-lO Champion­
Cheseret. was named the West Region Cross Country Athlete of          ships earlier that fall in Tucson.
the Year.                                                                  Cheseret's second consecutive Pac-lO Champion­
    "Coaches from the \\'estern Region voted for me. so it's a        ship propelled the Wildcats to a close finish hehind
great honor." said li as he sat in his ~IcKalc Center office. fecl­   first-place Stanford. The Pac-lO later named Cheseret
ingjet-lagged from a recent trip to his nati\'e China.                the 2005 Cross Country Athlete of the Year. his
    The trim. ++-year-old belie\'ed the mens performance at           second such honor.
Western ReglOnals clinched the award for him.                              Kenyan native Chcserel. who has dominated the
                                                                      Pac-lO and won two individual national champion­
                                                                      ships in his first two seasons. rendered three first
                                                                      place finishes and dght top-10 finbhes during the
                                                                      2005 regular season, Pac-lOs, and ~CAA regional and
                                                                      national champiomhips.
                                                                           Cheseret has a warm. easy smile and looks much
                                                                      taller than his six-foot listing, maybe because he's
                                                                      all sinew and legs. Summing up his season, Cheseret
                                                                      said, .. \ think my biggest achievement was repeating a
                                                                      Pac-lO win ... to win the Pac-lO is a big honor."
                                                                           Coach U offered nothing hut praise for Cheseret,
                                                                      as an at hlete as well as a person.
                                                                           "lTe's wry outgoing and likable, humble. and
                                                                      respectful," Li said. "Robert has strong moral values,
                                                                      always does the right thing, and works hard in
                                                                      school." li went on to add, that as an athlete, Cheseret
                                                                      is \'Cr) dedicated and alwaj's well prepared, "plus he
                                                                      has the mentality of a champion."
                                                                           The vast majority of Kenya's brightest running
                                                                      stars were born and raised at high altitude. Running       Sor
                                                                      at higher elevations builds great lung capacity. be­       us:
                                                                      cause athletes grow accustomed to the thin air. ~1any
                                                                      of the finest runners, for example. hail [rom the hilly    stn
                                                                      region surrounding Eldoret, about 7,000 to 8,000 feet
                                                                      abo\e sea le\'el. This area also possesses a fairly mild
                                                                      climate that allows for year-round running.
                                                                           Kenya's running culture also plays an important       anc
                                                                      role in the production of great runners, particularly      nat,
                                                                      among the Kalenjin tribe. Though Kalenjins represent
                                                                      just 12 percent of Kenya's population , they comprise      col<
                                                                      aboutthree-quaners of the nation's elite runners. The      ca t ~
                                                                       trend started \\ ith Kip Keino, \\'ho won OlympiC gold    ish(
                                                                      in the 1,500 meters in 1968 and added an OlympiC           ChI
                                                                      steeplechase title in 1972. His success inspired suc­
                                                                      ceeding generations of Kalenjins, \\ ho grew up idol­      saic
                                                                      izing Keino.                                               are
                                                                           The LA is one of several top cross country pro­       thil
                                                                      grams that feature star runners from Kenya and other       oft
                                                                      countries - four of the men's seven starters are from      dev
                                                                      Africa. The legacy of Kenyan and African runners at        ner:
                                                                  Making the Grade 

                                                      Under new policies and academic reforms, the
                                                                    CAA \vill expect improved graduation rates and
                                                                  semester-b),-semester progress for all student athletes.
                                                                     The reforms will severely impact individual NCAA
                                                                  sports programs. For Arizona. teams must meet
                                                                  the Academic Progress Rates - at least half of any
     The vast majority of Kenya's brightest                       team's players must be in good academic standing
     running stars were born and raised at                        and on pace to graduate or the team will be subject to
     high altitude. Running at higher elevations                  penalties, starting with lost scholarships and escalat­
                                                                  ing to post-season ineligibility. Students must make
     builds great lung capacity, because                          20 percent progress toward a degree each year to
     athletes grow a((ustomed to the thin air.                    remain eligible, instead of taking freshman courses
                                                                  each semester. A team can lose up to 10 percent of its
                                                                  scholarships under the policy. The regulations will
Arizona began most notably when Kenyan Martin Keino               take effect early in the spring semester.
(1992-1995), son of Kip Keino, won national champion­                Transfers and athletes who leave early to turn
ships in cross country and track and field (5000 meter) in
1994 and 1995,
                                                                  professional must be in good academic standing to
    Keino went on to make a name for himself as a profes­         avoid haVing a negative impact on their teams. Fewer
sional pace setter. For 10 years, Keino perfected the con­        than 1 percent of basketball players nationally leave
troversial art of pace-setting. A pace-setter's role is to take   school early for a pro career and more than half leave
off fast, running alongside elite athletes and pushing for
                                                                  in good academic standing, the NCAA reported.
speed before dropping out of t he race. Kenyans are well­
known for their running prowess, including having won
all but two of the last 12 Boston Marathons.
    As collegiate cross country becomes more elite. it also
becomes increasingly interntional. Coach Li became the
UA's cross country head coach four years ago after build­
ing a reputation at Washington State as an outstanding
distance coach with a particular ability to develop inter­
national talent.
    Li first met Cheseret through ChcsereCs older brother,
two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat. whom Li had
coached at Washington State. "I really like Coach Li's
training a lot:' Cheserct said. "Also, he's somebody you
can talk to. He makes sure everything is going all right.
Some of us are far from home, so he's also like a parent to
us," Cheseret added.
    Li continues to build upon Arizona's historically
strong porgram.
     "Overall. we had a tremendously successful season,"
Coach Li said. "But it was also somewhat up and down.
There were times when we were unstoppable as a team
and there were days when we were totally flat. Unfortu­
nately, the 0:CCA Championships was a flat day."
    The NCAA national championships took place on a
cold, windy November day in Terre Haute, IN . The 'Wild­
cats, who \-vere ranked fourth going into the event. fin­
ished. disappointingly, in 10th place - indicative of Robert
Cheseret"s unusually slow 10th place finish.
     "1 always say, we cannot blame the weather," Coach Li
said, explaining the poor finish at the nationals. "There
are probably a whole host of reasons." Still. Li added . "I
think we made a giant step forward in terms of the future
of the program. We'll be more experienced and better
developed in 2006. And, six of the top seven men's run­
ners are coming back, including Robert.·'
                                                                                                   THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZON AALUMNUS   47

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