Cross Country Hosts ASU Invitational Friday

Oct. 2, 2001

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This Week --
ASU's nationally-ranked cross country teams return home to host the Arizona State Invitational, at Freestone Park in Gilbert, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 5. The event begins with an open race for both men and women at 4 p.m. PT, followed by the women's 5,000m race at 4:45 p.m. and the men's 8,000m race at 5:15 p.m.

Sun Devils in the Polls --
Both ASU men's and women's teams made a quick ascent in the national polls this week. ASU's women climbed from No. 11 into a tie for fourth with BYU, according to this week's FinishLynx Women's Cross Country Poll. The men jumped from No. 22 to No. 15 in this week's MONDO Men's Cross Country Poll. For complete polls, see page two of this release.

The Field --
Friday, ASU will entertain a mix of Div. I schools and Phoenix area junior colleges including arch-rival Arizona, Cal State Northridge, Central Arizona College, Mesa Community College, New Mexico, Northern Arizona, Pima Community College, Phoenix College, Scottsdale Community College, Pac-10 foes Stanford and UCLA, and Yavapai College. In the latest national polls, Stanford's men and women are ranked second, while the Bruin women are ranked 18th. Both of NAU's teams appear in the nation's Top-25, with the men ranked 10th and the women ranked 23rd, while Arizona's women are ranked ninth.

Directions to the Course --
Friday's meet will be held at Freestone Park in Gilbert, Ariz., approximately 15 miles from the ASU campus. To get there from U.S. Highway 60, exit on Gilbert Road and go south. Then turn left (east) on Baseline Road and proceed one mile to Lindsay Road and turn right. The park is approximately 1.5 miles on the left.

Last Year --
The ASU women's 'B' team and the NAU men's 'B' team captured meet titles at last year's Arizona State Invitational. UTEP swept the individual crowns, with Dario Espinoza winning the men's 8,000m title and Anita Looper winning the women's 5,000m title. ASU was led by then redshirt-freshman Jen Hurbis, who finished third. Additional Sun Devils in the top-10 were Megan Laib (8th), Jen Bridgeman (9th) and Tiela Cairns (10th). ASU's men, who placed third, were led by Phillip Prince with a ninth-place finish. Charles Sharpe (14th) and Chad Barrett (15th) also finished in the top-15.

Freestone Park Course Records --
Freestone Park has served as ASU's home cross country course since 1997. Michael Aish from Western State College holds the men's 8,000m course record (24:47) set at the ASU Invitational, Oct. 8, 1999. Rikki Pedersen from Northern Arizona holds the women's 5,000m course record (17:34) set at the ASU Invitational, Oct. 16, 1998.

Last Time Out --
For second time in three years, ASU's women's cross country team won the 6,000m race title at the University of Minnesota's Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course, Saturday. The women combined for 109 points at the prestigious annual meet, while the ASU men tallied 267 points to place eighth in the men's 8,000m competition. Both ASU teams had two of the top three finishers in each race, as seniors Lisa Aguilera and Kelly MacDonald took second and third on the women's side, while sophomore Juan Reyes and junior Fasil Bizuneh finished two-three, respectively, on the men's side. ASU's women, who won their first Roy Griak title in 1999, were led by Aguilera's third-straight runner-up finish at the meet. While ASU's 'A' teams were competing in Minnesota, the women's 'B' team was having just as much success at home in Tempe. Led by fifth and sixth-place finishers Joanie Baca and Beth Martin, ASU's women's 'B' team won the women's title at the Canyon West Classic, hosted by Mesa Community College, at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Saturday. The men had just two scoring entries and did not record a team score.

Returning All-Americans --
In ASU cross country history, six individuals have earned All-America honors, three women and three men. The 2001 squad features half of that contingent in Lisa Aguilera and Kelly MacDonald from the women's side, and Fasil Bizuneh on the men's side.Lisa Aguilera, Senior - 2000 All-American (5th place), 2000 First-Team Verizon Academic All-American, 2000 Women's Cross Country Pac-10 and West Region Athlete of the Year, ASU Female Student Athlete of the Year (2000-01), two-time First-Team All-Pac-10 (1999-00).Fasil Bizuneh, Junior - 1999 All-American (19th place), First-Team All-Pac-10 (1999).Kelly MacDonald, Senior - 1999 All-American (36th place), First-Team All-Pac-10 (1999), ASU's Heather Farr Award Winner (2000-01).

Underclassmen Making an Impact --
ASU has benefited from the leadership of its returning All-Americans, but the team's underclassmen have also had an impact on the Sun Devils' early success. Sophomore Juan Reyes has already shown All-American potential, placing second among 311 runners in last weekend's Roy Griak Invitational, one spot ahead of Bizuneh. Reyes also won the UC Irvine-Asics Invitational individual men's title in the Sun Devils' season opener. Also on the men's side, JJ Duke, the only true freshman to have competed so far this season, was ASU's second highest finisher at the UC Irvine Invitational (sixth) and third highest finisher at the Roy Griak (54th). On the women's side, true freshman Desiree Davila has made the jump from prep competition to the collegiate ranks with ease, making her early mark as ASU's third best finisher at UC Irvine (15th) and the fifth best finisher at the Roy Griak (50th).

Head Coach Walt Drenth --
In his sixth year at the helm of the Arizona State cross country program, Walt Drenth continues to take the Sun Devils to unprecedented heights. Last year Drenth was named the USTCA West Region Women's Coach of the Year and for the second-straight season earned Pac-10 Women's Coach of the Year honors. Drenth has guided ASU to school record conference, regional and national finishes (including the teams' first four NCAA team appearances), while producing three All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans. 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 nine-time conference coach of the year and four-time district coach of the year, and has led nine squads to the NCAA Championships. Included in Drenth's ASU coaching staff are graduate assistant Corey Ihmels and volunteer assistant Michelle Borgert.

Academic Success --
Sun Devil teams have excelled not only on the cross country course, but in the classroom as well. Last season, for the fourth straight time, ASU's women were named an Academic All-America team by the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association. Also, both teams were honored for having the highest team GPA among large men's and women's sports at ASU (2000-01). For good measure, 33 athletes were named ASU Maroon and Gold Scholars. Earning Verizon Academic All-America (Fall/Winter At-Large) honors in 2000 were Lisa Aguilera and Garrett Jensen. Aguilera was named to the women's first-team, while Jensen was named to the men's second-team. Aguilera and Jensen also earned first-team Verizon Academic All-District honors, as did Mary Duerbeck.

2000 Season Summary --
ASU's women's team enjoyed the best season in school history, placing sixth at nationals (266 points) and second at both regionals and the Pac-10 Championships. Lisa Aguilera became the third woman in ASU history to earn All-America honors with a fifth-place school-record finish at the NCAA Championships. Aguilera won the women's individual title at regionals and was also the Pac-10 runner-up, both school record finishes. For her efforts, Aguilera was named the Pac-10 and USTCA West Region Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Also honored was head coach Walt Drenth, named the Pac-10 and USTCA West Region Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year. On the men's side, ASU finished the 2000 season ranked 24th nationally, but failed to receive an at-large bid to nationals. The men finished fourth at the Pac-10 meet and fifth at regionals. Earning Academic All-America honors for the Sun Devils were Aguilera (first-team) and Garrett Jensen (second-team). And for the fourth straight year, ASU's women's squad was named an Academic All-America team by the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association.

ASU Hosts 2001 Pac-10 Championships --
Arizona State will host this year's Pac-10 Cross Country Championships, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2001, at the Pavilion Lakes Golf Course in Scottsdale, Ariz. The men's 8,000m race is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., while the women's 6,000m race will follow at 11 a.m. The meet was originally scheduled to be held at ASU's home course, Freestone Park in Gilbert, Ariz. The ASU Invitational, Oct. 5, will still be held at Freestone Park.

Runnin' Devil Style --
Redshirt freshman Kelly Burke chronicles her experiences on the Sun Devil cross country team with a column on ASU's website, Burke's columns run on both the cross country and track and field sites.

Up Next --
The Sun Devils will travel to the site of the 2001 NCAA Championships for the NCAA Pre-National Invitational hosted by Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 13.

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