Cross Country Prepares for NCAA West Regionals

Nov. 1, 2000

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Saturday, Nov. 11 -- NCAA West Regionals, Fresno, Calif.
Women: 11:00 a.m. (MT), 6K, Men: 12:00 p.m. (MT), 10K

This Week: The Arizona State cross country teams will be in the hunt for an NCAA Championship bid when they compete at the NCAA West Regionals, Saturday, Nov. 11 hosted by Fresno State at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif. The women's 6,000-meter race begins at 11 a.m. MST (10 a.m. PST), while the men's 10,000-meter race will follow at noon MST (11 a.m. PST). The Sun Devil women are in search of their third straight NCAA berth, while the men seek their second consecutive NCAA nod. The fourth-ranked women and the ASU men are coming off strong Pac-10 Championship performances, both teams matching their best conference finishes in school history. The women placed second for the second straight year, while the men placed fourth for the third straight season.

The Field: The highly competitive Pac-10 Conference dominates the West Regional cross country field, a district known to be one of the most talented in the nation. The fourth-ranked ASU women will have their hands full with second-ranked and Pac-10 Champion Stanford, No. 7 Arizona and No. 9 Washington. The men's field includes second-ranked and Pac-10 Champion Stanford, No. 5 Northern Arizona, No. 10 Oregon and No. 12 Arizona.

Sun Devils In the Polls: For the second straight week, the ASU women held onto their fourth-place ranking in the FinishLynx Cross Country Poll. They were ranked as high as third in 1999. The ASU men have not been included in the MONDO Top-25 for the second consecutive week, but received four votes in this week's poll. The men began the season with an 11th-place ranking, their highest of the year, but fell out of the Top-25 for the first time Oct. 16. The Sun Devil men were ranked as high as ninth in 1999.

NCAA Championships: Nine regional meets will be held Saturday, Nov. 11 to determine the field for the NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa, Nov. 20. The top two teams in both the men's and women's races in each region will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa, Nov. 20. Monday, Nov. 13, 13 additional teams from across the nation will then be selected as at-large berths to fill out the 31-team NCAA field based on their regional finishes and performance against other potential qualifiers.

Pac-10 Championship Review: Both the ASU men and women matched their best team conference finishes at the Pac-10 Championships in Seattle Oct. 28. The fourth-ranked women placed second for the second consecutive year, while the men finished fourth for the third straight year. Junior Lisa Aguilera led the way for the Sun Devils with a second-place individual finish, running the 6,000-meter course in 20:19.95. Her runner-up performance was the best Pac-10 finish ever for an ASU woman. Arizona's Tara Chaplin captured the conference title (20:10.67), while Stanford took the women's team title. All the ASU women improved upon their times from the NCAA Pre-National Meet, including a two-minute difference for senior Mary Duerbeck who posted the best Pac-10 finish (seventh) of her career. Also finishing strong for the Sun Devils was junior Brianna Torres with a 15th-place finish (21:19.0). The ASU men were once again led by senior Garrett Jensen who placed 15th, completing the men's 8,000-meter course in 24:15.32. Close behind Jensen was freshman Juan Reyes, with a 16th place finish in 24:17.0. Stanford completed the team sweep, taking the men's title as well as the individual title as Jonathan Riley won the race in 23:39.59. Next year, ASU plays host to the 2001 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships at Freestone Park in Gilbert, Ariz.

Regional History: 1999 saw the Sun Devils eclipse their team and individual record performances in regional competition. Both the men's and women's teams finished third, breaking the previous mark of fifth set by the men in 1984 and the women in 1983. Last year, Isaiah Festa finished second in the men's race, surpassing Mike Stahr's fourth-place finish in 1984. Kelly McDonald broke the women's record with a fourth-place finish, topping sixth place finishes by Sabrina Peters-Stern (1982) and Teresa Barrios (1988). ASU harrier Lisa Aguilera also exceeded the women's previous best, finishing 5th in last year's West Regional in Portland, Ore.

Women Breakout at Pre-National Meet: The ASU women established themselves as a possible NCAA title contender, placing fourth at the Pre-National Invitational at Iowa State Oct. 14 and putting together one of the best team finishes in a major national meet under coach Walt Drenth. Consequently, the Sun Devils leaped from No. 14 to No. 4 in the next FinishLynx poll, the second-highest ranking for the women in school history. Junior Lisa Aguilera led the way for ASU with a 5th-place individual finish among over 350 runners. Aguilera has established herself as one of the top runners in the nation, also finishing second this year at the Roy Griak Invitational. Redshirt-freshman Cynthia Atencio was the second-highest ASU finisher, placing 47th in just her second scoring meet as a Sun Devil. Senior Mary Duerbeck showed her continued consistency with a 52nd-place finish, while junior Brianna Torres and senior Colleen Burke posted 73rd and 78th finishes respectively.

Head Coach Walt Drenth: Walt Drenth, in his fifth year as Head Cross Country Coach at Arizona State University, has taken the Sun Devils to unprecedented heights. He was named the Pac-10's Women's Coach of the Year in 1999, after leading the Sun Devils to their best finish in school history. Under his tenure, ASU has posted the best Pac-10 finishes in school history (Women 2nd in 1999, Men 4th in `98 and `99) and the best regional finishes in school history (both finished 3rd last year). In addition, the men made their first appearance in school history at the NCAA Championships in 1999 and finished 14th, while the women earned back-to-back berths to nationals, including a 12th-place finish in 1999. Drenth came to Tempe after spending the previous six years (1990-95) at the College of William & Mary and six years at Central Michigan (1985-90). He is a seven-time conference coach of the year and two-time District Coach of the Year and has led six squads to the NCAA Championships.

Up Next: NCAA Championships hosted by Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, Monday, Nov. 20.

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