UCLA Cross Country Teams Start 2002 Campaign On Saturday
Aug. 27, 2002
Eric Peterson's UCLA men and women's cross country teams open the 2002 collegiate season on Saturday (Aug. 31) at the CS Fullerton 'Season Opener' Invitational, held at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea. The Men's 8000m race will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the Women's 5000m event starts at 9:15 a.m.
Last year, UCLA opened the cross country season at this same event, where the Bruin men placed third, behind Stanford and Cal Baptist and the UCLA women placed second in the team standings, behind Stanford.
From last year's squad, UCLA's women return six of their top seven runners - juniors, Valerie Flores (San Pedro HS), Lena Nilsson (Vallentuna, Sweden) and Tiffany Burgess (Van Nuys/Birmingham HS), along with sophomores, Alejandra Barrientos (Felton/San Lorenzo Valley HS), Carolyn Shea (Waterville, ME HS) and Lori Mann (Coto de Caza/Santa Margarita Catholic).
In 2001, Flores came on strong at the end of the season and led the Bruins in two of the final three cross country meets, placing 19th (No. 2 UCLA finisher) at the Pac-10 and the leading UCLA runner at the NCAA West Regional (23rd). She was UCLA's No. 3 finisher at the NCAA Championships. Barrientos, as a true freshman last year, was UCLA's second-highest finisher at the NCAA, third-highest placement (31st) at the West Region and No. 4 Bruin finisher at the Pac-10 (23rd).
Adding to the Bruins' strength are two track standouts who ran for UCLA at last season's NCAA Cross Country Championships, Nilsson and Burgess. Nilsson had an outstanding 2002 track campaign. Over the summer she won the 800m and 1500m at Sweden's National Championships, won the 1500m at the NCAA Outdoor, was named the Pac-10 Women's T & F Athlete of the Year, anchored the Bruins' winning distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor and also set school records in the 800m (2:02.26) and 1500m (4:09.89).
Burgess last summer qualified for the 800m at the USA and NCAA Outdoor meets (her then-school record 2:03.73 was the fastest qualifying time entering the NCAA Outdoor), placed second in the 800m at the Pac-10 and at the NCAA Indoor, Burgess ran on the Bruins' winning distance medley relay and earned All-American honors on UCLA's 4 X 400m relay.
'This team has proven experience at the championship level in both cross country and track,' said Peterson, in his ninth year coaching the Bruin women. 'We have the opportunity to be one of the Top 15 teams in the nation this season.'
After the CS Fullerton race, the Bruins will train at Mammoth Lakes, preparing for their next event, at the Big Wave Invitational in Honolulu, HI on Sept. 21.