2003 UCLA Women's Cross Country Outlook

Sept. 9, 2003

Under 10th year head coach Eric Peterson, the Bruin women's cross country team has qualified for the NCAA Championships four of the last five years, including the last two consecutive seasons. From last year's squad that tied for 25th at the NCAA, placed third at the Regional meet and fourth at the Pac-10, UCLA returns every top runner that competed for the Bruins in all three of those meets.

Senior Lena Nilsson, junior Alejandra Barrientos, senior Valerie Flores, sophomore Jenna Timinsky, sophomore Allison Hall and junior Lori Mann represented the Bruins at last fall's NCAA Cross Country Championships.Nilsson, maybe the top 800m/1500m runner in the college ranks, earned All-American honors at last year's NCAA, placing 17th (20:10.0 over the 6000m course). She also led UCLA at the Pac-10 (3rd, 20:01, first-team All-Pac-10) and Regional (2nd, 20:45) meets. In her stellar Bruin track career, Nilsson (Vallentuna, Sweden) has won three NCAA titles (2003 Indoor 800m/2002 Outdoor 1500m/2002 Indoor DMR), is the two-time (2003-02) Pac-10 Women's T & F Athlete of the Year (the only women in league history to repeat as the conference 800m/1500m winner) and is the school record-holder in both the 800m (2:02.26) and 1500m (4:07.69).

'In four years, Lena's development as a cross country runner has been impressive,' said Peterson. 'She's gone from a capable runner to among the nation's best. Her competitive leadership is invaluable to the success of our team. '

Barrientos was UCLA's second-highest placement at both the NCAA (86th, 21:10.1) and Pac-10 (9th, 21:11), earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors. An outdoor track redshirt last spring, as a freshman in 2001-02 Barrientos helped qualify the Bruins to the NCAA Cross Country Championships and in track, she placed fifth (4:26.95, personal-best) in the Pac-10 1500m. In high school (Felton/San Lorenzo Valley), Barrientos ran in the Footlocker National Cross Country Championship, was a CA State cross country champion and a two-time CA State 1600m champion (in 2001, her 4:43.24 led the U. S. prep chart).

Flores was the Bruins' third-highest finisher at the NCAA (180th, 21:55.7) and also placed 27th (21:43) at the Pac-10 and 29th (22:26) at the West Regional. In track last spring, she was 11th (36:51.31) in the Pac-10 10,000m and her personal-best 35:08.05 is No. 6 in school history. A veteran Bruin performer, Flores as a junior in cross country was UCLA's top runner at the Regional (23rd) meet. As a senior at San Pedro HS, Flores ran in the Footlocker National Cross Country Championship and was the Los Angeles City champion.

Timinsky, a true freshman last fall, was a major contributor in cross country. She was UCLA's second-highest finisher (9th, 21:46) at the Regional meet, third-highest at the Pac-10 (22nd, 21:30) and No. 4 UCLA finisher at the NCAA. In the summer, Timinsky, a redshirt in track last spring, placed third in the 800m at the USA Juniors, fourth at the Pan Am Juniors and ran personal-bests of 2:07.00 (800m) and 4:32.50 (1500m). As a senior at San Dieguito Academy (Encinitas), Timinsky won the 800m at the Golden West Invitational.

As a true freshman last season, Hall (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) ran in all three major cross country events, with a top placement of 29th (21:49) at the Pac-10. In track last spring, she ran a 2:12.46 (800m) and 4:31.26 (1500m).

Like Hall, Mann (Coto de Caza/Santa Margarita Catholic) ran in all three cross country majors last fall, placing highest at the Regional meet (27th, 22:23). Last spring in track she ran a 10:16.42 (3000m), 17:31.44 (5000m) and 36:46.92 (10,000m).

'The scoring pack of our team is comprised of a group of athletes with tremendous potential,' Peterson said. 'Notably, Ale and Jenna have the ability to run at an All-American level.'

The Bruins can also rely on veterans, junior Carmen Winant, senior Melissa McBain, sophomore Sarah West and junior Carolyn Shea.

Winant (Philadelphia, PA/Germantown Friends HS) last fall was UCLA's No. 3 finisher at the Regional meet (19th, 22:11) and No. 4 placement at the Pac-10 (25th, 21:31). In cross country, she was also a first-team Pac-10 All-Academic selection (3.69gpa). In track last spring, Winant was 12th in the Pac-10 10,000m (36:53/62) and her personal-best 35:15.04 is No. 8 in school history.

McBain (Thousand Oaks HS), who ran in the 2003 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships (47th, 22:38), had a breakthrough track campaign last spring. She placed sixth (10:52.22) in the Pac-10 3000m steeplechase and her personal-best mark of 10:36.06 is a school record. She also ran a team-leading 16:48.27 5000m.

West (Davis HS) was a true freshman last fall and ran for the Bruins in the Pac-10 meet. In track last spring, she ran an 18:05.75 5000m.

Shea (Waterville, ME HS) last fall ran in six cross country meets for the Bruins. In track, Shea is a versatile performer, running anything between 1500m and 10,000m and her 10:54.91 3000m steeplechase is No. 4 in school history. As a true freshman, Shea was UCLA's top finisher at the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championship and she competed at the U. S. Junior Cross Country Championship.

'Our team appears to be deeper than ever, ' Peterson said. 'The development of Melissa and Carmen following the 2003 track season has strengthened our already established depth.'

The Bruin newcomers will be led by freshman Alison Costello (Esperanza HS). A first-team Los Angeles Times All-Star Girls Track & Field performer in the 1600m/3200m, Costello was third in the 1600m at the 2003 CA State meet in a personal-best 4:53.74. She also won the 1600m/3200m at the CIF Div. I and Masters meets. A talented all-around distance runner, Costello placed at the CA State Cross Country Championships last fall.

'Our commitment is continued growth and improvement,' Peterson said. 'We've shown over the past five years that our program is among the nation's elite. With the development and maturity of our roster, we expect this level of success to continue.'

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