Duck Cross Country Teams Nearing Start of Season
The University of Oregon men's and women's cross country squads kick off the collegiate season in mid-September at in-state contests before heading to St. Paul, Minn., at the end of the month for the Roy Griak Invitational, one of the nation's biggest meets. The two-month long season will be capped by the NCAA Championships, held in Furman, S.C., Monday, Nov. 18.
The Duck women will start their chase after a 25th NCAA appearance under the guidance of 27th-year head coach Tom Heinonen. This year's squad will feature a host of young talent stepping into key scoring roles. Redshirt sophomore Tara Struyk was a top-three scorer every race her freshman season in 1999, while junior Eri Macdonald claimed similar honors last year. Sophomore Laura Harmon scored in five of her six races last fall and was a three-time top-10 state placer at the Oregon 4A level for Jesuit High School. Sophomore Annette Mosey emerged as the team's top middle-distance addition on the track last year with four, sub-2:13 efforts in the 800 and followed with a Pac-10 appearance in the 1,500. A trio of juniors, Carrie Zografos, Erinn Gulbrandsen and Annie Davis, have all made top-seven appearances in the past and are strong candidates for scoring roles. Freshman Sara Schaaf (Klamath), the 2001 state champion in the 800 (2:13.38) leads a group of five newcomers that includes several transfers and walk-ons.
On the men's side, two-time All-American and junior Jason Hartmann returns after Pac-10 and Western Regional runner-up honors last year. Redshirt senior Adam Bergquist finished third at every race in his first year as a Duck scorer, while sophomores John Lucas (18th), Brett Holts (19th) and Noel Paulson (25th) were also top-25 finishers last year in their Pac-10 Championships debuts. Two redshirt frosh -- Eric Logsdon (Canby) and Kyle Robinson (Salem) -- and three newcomers -- freshman transfer Ryan Andrus (Orem, Utah/Univ. of Wisconsin) and freshmen Seth Pilkington (Roy, Utah) and Erik Heinonen (Eugene) -- will all have varsity opportunities. Redshirt freshman Aaron Emery and senior Simon Kimata could be in the varsity mix after top-10 finishes on the squad last year.
Tentative 2001 Cross Country Schedule
9/14 Portland-Portland St. Triangular (Men's 4 miles), Portland, Ore., Pier Park
9/15 New Balance Fest.of Champs. (Women's 4K), Oregon City, Ore., Clackamas XC Course
9/29 Roy Griak Invite (Men's 8K / Women's 6K), St. Paul, Minn., Les Bolstad XC Course
10/7 Willamette Invite (Men's 8K / Women's 6K), Salem, Ore., Bush Park
10/13 Furman Invite (Men's 8K / Women's 6K), Greenville, S.C., Furman Univ. GC
10/27 Pac-10 Championships (Men's 8K / Women's 6K), Gilbert, Ariz., Gilbert Park
11/10 NCAA Western Regional Championships (Men's 10K /Women's 6K), Tucson, Ariz., Dell Urich Park
11/19 NCAA Championships (Men's 10K / Women's 6K), Greenville, S.C., Furman Univ. GC
Several recent men's and women's signees could have an immediate impact for the Ducks this fall as true freshmen. On the men's side, freshmen Seth Pilkington and Erik Heinonen finished fifth and sixth last December at the Kinney Footlocker Cross Country Championships, the national prep championship. On the track last spring, Pilkington ranked third nationally in the 3,200 (8:55.17), while Heinonen paced the nation in the 10,000 (31:26.05). Two other redshirt freshmen could play big roles in their first fall seasons for the Ducks. Having trained in Eugene since January, transfer Ryan Andrus missed his freshman harrier season at Wisconsin due to a stress fracture, followed by a two-year religious mission. Andrus clocked 3:46.5 and 14:1.8 as a freshman in 1998, and that summer finished second in the 5K at the U.S. Junior Championships to qualify for the 1998 World Junior Championships. Redshirt frosh Eric Logsdon took third at the 1999 Oregon 4A state cross country championships as a senior, but is better known for his national-caliber marks in the 1,500 (3:51.39), 3,000 (8:10.66) and 3,200 (8:47.88) the following spring. On the women's side, freshman Sara Schaaf is the team's top middle-distance signee after winning the 4A state title last year in the 800 (2:13.38). Several other women's newcomers will be publicized in future releases once they arrive in the fall because of NCAA publicity restrictions.
ACROSS THE NATION
After coming up 11 points short of an NCAA title, last year's men's runner-up Colorado appears the favorite after losing only one runner from its top seven. Defending champion Arkansas will join Stanford and Wisconsin as other top men's team contenders. On the women's side, returning victors Colorado will fend off a perenially deep BYU squad, while Stanford and Wisconsin could play spoiler roles. Top men's individuals include returning Colorado's Jorge Torres, 1999 NCAA champ David Kimani of Alabama, and Georgetown's Franklyn Sanchez. Women's individual favorites include 1999 champ Erica Wheeler of Wisconsin, last year's runner-up Sabrina Munro of Washington, senior Lisa Aguilera of Arizona State, North Carolina sophomore Shalane Flanagan and Stanford junior Lauren Fleshman.
LIFE IN A WESTERN TOWN
The Ducks will again match up against a rigorous schedule, partly courtesy of the Pac-10 and NCAA Western Regional. On the men's side, the regional has featured seven or more All-Americans in five of the past six NCAA finales. On the women's side, the 2000 NCAA field featured five schools, with six qualifying the year before. On the track, Pac-10 women's teams flexed their muscle by sweeping the medal stand at the 2001 NAA Track and Field Championships, and individually, female league distance runners collected two NCAA titles and earned two or more All-America certificates in the 800, 1,500 and 5K, and another in the steeplechase. Altogether at the past 10 NCAA Cross country Championships, the Pac-10 has featured three team titles (2 men's, 1 women's), two team runners-up (1 men's, 1 women's) and four individual winners (3 men's, 1 women's).
Starting with the Roy Griak Invite, the Duck men and women will try to garner as many head-to-head wins season against other potential NCAA participants from across the nation so they can help their qualifying cause for the NCAA Championships. The NCAA men's and women's fields feature the top two teams from each of November's nine NCAA regionals, along with an additional 13 at-large teams selected on their regional finish and regular-season wins against other automatic qualifiers and at-large hopefuls. A total of 37 individuals from non-qualifying teams also advance to the NCAA finale -- the top four individuals from each region plus two at-large individuals selected nationally. With the depth of the NCAA Western Regional which featured three top-10 ranked teams for much of the year, the Duck women went the at-large route for the third straight year, thanks to a fourth-place regional finish and previous wins against five fellow NCAA qualifiers - Marquette, North Carolina, South Florida, Wake Forest and Weber State. The Oregon men fell victim to an aberration in the system after finishing fourth in the NCAA Western Regional Championships. Although the Ducks had previously piled up regular-season wins over 19 of the 31 eventual NCAA teams, the Ducks had to wait until the third-place regional finisher, Cal Poly, was selected. However, the Mustangs were shut out of an invite (and also ultimately the Ducks) after they had beat only two NCAA qualifying teams, Indiana and Nebraska, during the year.
IN THE POLLS
Last year, the men spent nearly half of the campaign in the weekly coaches top-10 poll before capping the season 20th after the NCAA Western Regional. The Duck women flip-flopped positions during the year, starting at a preseason high of 12th to a final ranking of 22nd. This year's preseason polls won't be released until the end of August.
WOMEN'S 2000 SEASON REVIEW
The Ducks saw seven different harriers score last season and nine appear among the squad's top seven. Hanna Smedstad led the Ducks in each of her six appearances after sitting out the season opener in Portland. Katie Crabb led the squad at the Pier Park showing, followed with runner-up squad placings in four races. Rhiannon Glenn also stood second on the varsity at three meets, fourth twice and seventh once. Eri Macdonald (Honolulu, Hawaii) stepped up as one of the team's most improved -- ranking third on the team at three races and fourth at four races. Erinn Gulbrandsen (Chico, Calif.) ran equally steady, scoring at three races and ranking sixth at three others. Laura Harmon (Vancouver, Wash.) scored at six of her seven races, including appearances at the third (twice), fourth (once), fifth (thrice) and sixth (once) positions. Transfer Carrie Zografos (Portland) proved a welcome addition, ranking seventh for the team at four races and sixth in two other Duck appearances. Annette Mosey (Wilsonville), ranked seventh at two of the first three meets and eighth at another. Annie Davis (Portland) stood fifth in the team's opener, then ninth and eighth in the Ducks' races at the Roy Griak and Willamette Invites, respectively.
MEN'S 2000 SEASON REVIEW
The Duck men were led in the final four races by Jason Hartmann (Rockford, Mich.) and in the season opener by senior Michael Kasahun, with the other ranking second at the other four races. Hartmann and Kasahun made their second NCAA appearances (35th and 65th, respectively) after qualifying individually based on their second- and fourth-place NCAA Western Regional finishes. Adam Bergquist (Boulder, Colo.) collected his first-ever points as a Duck, ranking third at four races. John Lucas (Eagle Point) ran at the fourth position the last three races and fifth in his Duck debut, while Brett Holts (Bend) inverted those positions (fourth once and fifth thrice). Holts also led the `B' unit at the season opener. Noel Paulson (Aumsville), ranked sixth on the varsity in all four races, just ahead of a pair of seniors that split the seventh slot -- Lincoln Nehring at the Pac-10 and Western Regional meets, and Sam Hill at the first two varsity meets.
No university boasts a combined history as rich as the Oregon men's and women's programs. Dating back to All-American Steve Prefontaine in 1969, 18 men's runners have finished among the top five at the NCAA meet -- the most recent being Steve Fein (third in `99). The Oregon list of greats includes such legends as American track record holders `Pre', Alberto Salazar, Rudy Chapa and Matt Centrowitz. On the women's side, Oregon has qualified as a team in 24 of 26 NCAA meets since 1975 and has finished in the top 10 in all but five appearances. University of Oregon women have garnered 30 All-America honors and have included such greats as Marie Davis, Melody Fairchild, Kathy Hayes, Lisa Ondieki, and Annette Peters.
AT THE HELM
Beginning his third season as men's cross country head coach, Martin Smith has solidified Oregon as one of nation's most preeminent programs. In his first season as cross country head coach in 1999, he guided Oregon to its 24th top-10 NCAA cross country finish, while Ducks have garnered 15 All-America honors in track and cross country in his first three seasons in Eugene. Previously, the two-time NCAA Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year (1985 & 88) led Wisconsin harrier squads to two NCAA titles, nine top-five finishes, and top-14 finishes in each of his 15 years in Madison. On the individual side, his Badger cross country athletes won one NCAA title and 34 All-America awards, to go with five NCAA titles and 44 All-America honors on the track. His harrier All-America tally during that period trailed only Arkansas, and even bettered the Hogs' tally counting only U.S. athletes. On the women's side, 27th-year coach Tom Heinonen has also been honored as NCAA Coach of the Year for each of Oregon's NCAA two cross country and one track and field team titles and has directed the Ducks to the collegiate harrier finale 24 times. Individually, his distance pupils have scored 30 All-America honors in cross country and 53 awards on the track. In conference competition the Ducks have historically paced 'The Conference of Champions' as his teams have won seven of 15 Pac-10 team titles and six individual crowns since the league's inception in 1986 -- also garnering him six Pac-10 Coach-of-the-Year honors.
SCORING THE RACE
Cross country races are scored by adding together the places of each seven-person team's top five finishers, with the lowest score winning. A perfect score, thus, would be 15 (1+2+3+4+5), although scores at larger meets such as the NCAA Championships are much higher because of the larger number of teams on hand (i.e. 50-100+ points). At the NCAA Championships or other regular season invitationals where some individuals compete apart from teams, their places are not counted in the team scoring (i.e. a runner who finished 49th overall but was beaten by two individuals not affiliated with teams would be scored 47th in the team scoring).
ON PACE IN THE CLASSROOM
In 2000, the Ducks featured six harriers among the three Pac-10 All-Academic teams led by first-team pick Adam Bergquist (exercise and movement science/general science, 3.96), and second-team selection Erinn Gulbrandsen (3.97, english/exercise and movement science). Sam Hill and John Lucas were honorable mention men's picks, while Annie Davis and Eri Macdonald received similar women's honors.
Martin Smith's impact on two of the past three NCAA races have carried beyond the Ducks' top-10 finishes. In 1999, his former Wisconsin crew -- including six of the seven runners he recruited -- took second overall with 185 points after entering the meet fourth-ranked. The Badgers featured two runners in the top six in Matt Downin (fourth) and Jay Schoenfelder (sixth), and also had two other transfers in the top 10 in Oregon's Steve Fein (third) and Arkansas' Andrew Begley (seventh). The Badgers' final scorer, Jason Vanderhoof (60th), would have given Wisconsin a hyptothetical NCAA title with 62 points -- five ahead of Arkansas which would have scored 67 without Begley. The previous year in 1998, the Badgers would have claimed similar honors with 62 points with two UW individuals in the top 20 overall in Downin (fourth) and Schoenfelder (20th), and three former Badgers in the top-25 that were also All-Americans -- Begley (16th), Fein (18th) and UCLA senior Mark Hauser (24th).