Women's Cross Country Outlook

Sept. 20, 2002

EUGENE - In his 28th year as women's head coach, the University of Oregon women's head coach Tom Heinonen looks forward to an improved squad that returns six letterwinners. The experienced squad is even entertaining hopes of a potential 25th national appearance with two seniors and four juniors up front, and three finalists from recent Pac-10 track finales.

'We have virtually the same cast as last year, and we'll be a lot better,' Oregon women's head coach Tom Heinonen said. 'A lot of them made major stops last spring and everybody had a great summer season of training.'

Redshirt senior Carrie Zografos (Portland) returns after a breakthrough 2001-02 season. In cross country, she ranked as the team's MVP and led the squad in four of her five cross country races, including the Pac-10 Champs (35th). On the track, she led the team in the 1,500 with a Pac-10 qualifier and 12-second personal best (4:26.98), and made an ever bigger splash over the barriers. In her season steeplechase debut vs. Washington, her school record (10:42.02)she missed the NCAA provisional mark by barely two seconds, and she later added fifth in the Pac-10 finale.

Junior Laura Harmon (Vancouver, Wash.) led the squad once last season -- in the Western Regional (45th) -- and ranked second in the first two races of 2001 and fifth in the remaining two meets due to illness. On the track in 2002, she led the team in the 5K (17:12.04) and ranked second in the 1,500 (4:29.49) with Pac-10 qualifiers in both.

Redshirt junior Eri Macdonald (Honolulu, Hawai'i) returns after redshirting last fall and has scored in 11 of 13 career races for the Ducks, including NCAA appearances in 2000 (194th) and 1999 (226th). Outdoors on the track in 2002, she missed an NCAA invite in the 800 by .04 seconds with her personal best (2:06.37) and made her second appearance in the Pac-10 final. She also clocked 4:35.79 in the 1,500, one of four Pac-10 qualifiers in the event for the Ducks and none of whom graduated.

Junior Magdalena Sandoval (Los Alamos, N.M.) was the team's top newcomer last fall and ran among the Ducks' top four in all five races -- including second twice -- before missing the spring as she returned from a stress fracture.

Senior Erinn Gulbrandsen (Chico, Calif.) placed among the squad's top four in every race, including four stops in the top three, then redshirted the track season. A two-time NCAA veteran (239th in 2000, 239th in 1999), she is coming off her biggest summer of training and will contend for scoring duties again and has scored in six of her last eight races as a sophomore and junior.

'Laura, Carrie and Magdalena had great summers of training mileage-wise, and Erinn was close behind,' Heinonen said. 'They were our top runners last year and suspect they'll be again this year. The rest of the team are also excited about their summers and may make some major steps.'

Redshirt sophomore Alicia Snyder-Carlson (Kihei, Hawai'i) proved a pleasant surprise in her first season of varsity cross country duty in 2001 -- with two scoring efforts and top-seven finishes in her three other appearances. On the track, she was the only athlete to qualify for the Pac-10 meet in the 400 hurdles (61.51) and steeplechase (11:07.85), and ranked first and second, respectively, on the team.

Among the Ducks' crop of younger returnees, three others return after solid summers of training. Sophomore Beth Jackson ran a season best of 2:17.80 in the 800 last spring, redshirt sophomore Taylor Bryant was a 3A state champion in 2000 (PR 2:18.11), and redshirt freshman Haripurkh Khalsa looks for continued strides after a full season of collegiate training after two years prior away from the sport while attending Miri Piri Academy in Amristar, India.

Among four newcomers, an addition from Illinois and a trio of in-state freshmen could make an immediate impact.

Nicole Feest of Glenbard East High School in Lombard, Ill., took fourth in the 2001 2A state cross country meet (14:24) and on the track ran a personal best of 10:59.7 in the 3,200 in the spring. During her senior track season, she fought off injuries and held on to 19th in the state finale (11:50.29), while she finished sixth in the state 3,200 as a junior (11:07.62). As a sophomore she ran at state in the 4x800 (second, 9:22.54) and owned a season best of 5:21.8 in the 1,600.

Portland natives Krissy Sonniksen of Westview High School and Chelsea Manesh of Sunset High School placed 19th and 27th last fall in the 4A state cross country championships, and Manesh added a 2:17.54 personal best in her district 800 win the following spring. Sabrina Turner of Crescent Valley High School took 31st in the state harrier chase, and finished fourth in her district meet in 2002 in the 1,500 and 3,000. Freshman Nori Gordon, a Eugene product and South High School graduate, joined the team in October, and soon after, took 39th overall as an unattached entrant in the Willamette Invite -- fifth-best among the Ducks' 10 official finishers.

'I haven't seen a couple of our freshmen run before they arrive,' Heinonen said, 'so I don't have a lot of info to go off. Nicole and Chelsea have put in a lot of miles this summer, including several weeks above 50 miles which is pretty substantial for freshmen. Sabrina and Chrissy maybe haven't run quite as many miles, but what they have done is considerably more than they've ever done in the summer, so they're doing well, too. Nori joined the team in October and quickly challenged for a varsity spot. With newcomers, if you come in the fall ready to go, anything can happen, and they might be able to help us.'

Only three from last year's roster are absent from the squad in 2002. Junior Annette Mosey returns as team's second-fastest entry in 800 (2:10.55) and third-fastest in 1,500 (4:35.78) based on 2002 season bests, but will redshirt this fall, while studying in Spain. Last fall, she ranked fourth on the team in the Pac-10 Championships (46th) and NCAA Western Regional (81st). Sophomore Sara Schaaf (Klamath Falls) scored once last fall before missing the harrier regional finale because of a stress fracture, but will focus solely on track and will compete in the longer sprints this season. Senior Annie Davis - daughter of former Duck golf letterman Gay Davis - shifted her focus to golf last winter due to asthma problems, and scored once for the harrier unit last fall.

As with past years, the schedule features two of the nation's top invitationals, the Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 28, and the Pre-NCAA Meet in Terre Haute, Ind., Oct. 12 - held on the same course as the national championships the following month. The postseason opens with the Pacific-10 Conference Championships, Nov. 2 at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, followed by another warm-weather stop - the NCAA Western Regional Championships in Stanford, Calif. Nov. 16. The NCAA Championships cap the season in Terre Haute, Ind., Nov. 25.

'We're hoping to use the Griak race as a chance to re-legitimize ourselves,' Heinonen said, 'then make our major statement at Pre-NCAAs. We'll only be together for two weeks before Griak, while a lot of other teams have been training as a group for more than a month. When we get to October, we should be more mature as a team, while many teams are trying to holding on.'

Conference-wise, the Ducks could be in the thick of a crowded Pac-10 chase with only two squads ranked top-20 in the preseason coaches poll. In comparison, the Pac-10 flexed its muscle with top-25 teams in the NCAA chase last year (5) - the most of any league nationally - and had four schools finish top 20 in 1999 and 1998.

'Preseason-wise, UCLA is the second-highest ranked team at 15th nationally, so that's a relatively weak showing for our region,' Heinonen said. 'Going by that alone, it doesn't look like its normally overwhelmingly strong self. If we can make a big jump and a few teams come back, it could be a pretty interesting setting. There's also been a few coaching changes so that will make thing more interesting, too.'

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