OSU Officially Back In The Running

Sept. 10, 2004

PORTLAND, Ore. - After a 17-year gap, Oregon State returned to women's cross country competition Friday afternoon at the Pier Park Invitational. The event was scored in a dual meet fashion among the five NCAA Division I schools on hand, with the Beavers beating St. Mary's (Calif.) 15-46 and losing to Oregon 18-44, Portland State 23-32 and Portland's B squad 23-35.

Ashley Younce placed third overall for the Beavers, covering the 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes, 42 seconds and trailing only Oregon's Laura Harmon at 18:10 and Katie Leary at 18:25 in the 54-woman field. Lauren Denfeld was 14th for OSU in 20:02.

'I'm smiling. I'm really, really, really happy for the girls,' OSU head coach Kelly Sullivan said. 'We didn't run four or five of our kids, and out of the 12 of them that ran today, for four of them it was the first time they'd ever run a cross country meet in their life. So when you factor in that you're running against established programs like Oregon and Portland and Portland State that work really hard at it, and you bring a youthful group ... I'm happy for them.

'The thing I didn't want to happen is to get embarrassed, because that would be like taking two steps forward and having to take a step back. I've been preparing to give a reassurance talk when the reality is, I couldn't have asked for a better day or better circumstances. So, Step One accomplished.'

Oregon State, which is resuming its women's cross country and track programs this year, will next run in the Washington Invitational next Saturday, Sept. 18 at 9 a.m.

Friday's race was the Beavers' first varsity cross country meet since the men were represented in the 1987 NCAA Championships, and it was the first OSU varsity women's meet since that year's NCAA West Regionals. OSU dropped its programs in men's and women's track and field after the 1987-88 school year.

'It's been amazing,' Sullivan said of Friday's reaction to the Beavers' first meet of the new era. 'When we first got here, we had the biggest team here and that surprised people. Everybody was kind of looking around, and even people from other schools would come up and say `It's great to see you guys.' And the girls were running, they said they heard people yelling for them that weren't part of the Oregon State group. And we had quite a few alums here today, which was really nice.'

Younce is in her third year at Oregon State and hadn't competed since her senior year at Sunset High in Beaverton. Driving home one day, Sullivan had seen her running in an OSU physical education class concentrating on the 10,000 meters with two men trying to outrun her to the finish.

'I was thinking about running in college, and then I just thought I'd give something else a try,' Younce said. 'I always loved Oregon State, I always loved this school, and then this opportunity came up. I've enjoyed the last two years but I've missed running, so I just thought I'd give it a try.

'My last meet was the state championships my senior year of high school. This is the first time I've worn racing flats since then. I've done some road races and stuff for fun, but this is the first time I've put new flats on and stuff.'

The new start for the program made for plenty of adrenaline, but OSU's runners weren't overcome by it.

'Just get those butterflies out and stuff,' Younce said. 'I wasn't nervous at all, because Kelly was so calm about us and just wanted us to go out and have fun, which is really nice. We were all really relaxed. It was just something exciting; nothing to be nervous for.'

Several OSU track alums were on hand for Friday's meet. One was Brian Glanville, who had run cross country and the 3,000-meter steeplechase from 1969-73.

'It's fun,' Glanville said of the occasion. 'To see the kids back out here, and to see the singlet going again. And just from a lot of the coaches, to see the orange and black back on the course is fun for everybody. It's nice to have the Northwest back together for all the schools. It brings back fond memories.'

Glanville's coach from his OSU days, Berny Wagner, was also on hand. Wagner had long sought to have cross country and track and field reinstated at Oregon State.

'When Brian Glanville and I and some other alums started this (effort to bring back the sport), we thought it would happen,' Wagner said. 'We had some disappointments during that time. It had been about 12 years we'd worked on it and there were times we were discouraged, but we kept fighting it and we finally have a guy who wants to do it (athletic director Bob De Carolis) there at the head of the department. It's very nice to see.'

For Younce, the feeling was likewise.

'To have the former coach (Berny Wagner) come up, who said he'd been working on it for so long - to thank him and all those people for bringing it back,' Younce said. 'It's really cool to see a new starting point.'

PIER PARK INVITATIONAL

OREGON STATE TEAM SCORES (DUAL MEET SCORING): Oregon State 15, St. Mary's 46; Oregon 18, Oregon State 44; Portland B 23, Oregon State 35; Portland State 23, Oregon State 32.

TOP INDIVIDUALS AND OREGON STATE FINISHERS (FIELD OF 54): 1. L. Harmon, UO, 18:10.8; 2. K. Leary, UO, 18:25; 3. Ashley Younce, OSU, 18:42; 4. A. Ritchie, UP, 18:55; H. Khalsa, UO, 19:04; 14. Lauren Denfeld, OSU, 20:02; 22. Michelle Wilson, OSU, 20:25; 25. Lisa Roberton, OSU, 20:37; 28. Noelle Harer, OSU, 20:58; 34. Stacey Fischer, OSU, 21:29; 35. Heather Wales, OSU, 21:36; 36. Marcie Aker, OSU, 21:43; 38. Jaime Fuller, OSU, 21:46; 42. Tara Stirewalt, OSU, 22:04; 47. Allie Schroeder, OSU, 22:56; 51. Kelsea Schwing, OSU, 24.30.

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