Cross Country Heads South for NCAA West Regionals Saturday

Nov. 6, 2001

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This Week --
Arizona State's hopes to compete in the NCAA Championships will be on the line this weekend, as the Sun Devils travel south to Tucson, Ariz., for the 2001 NCAA Cross Country West Regional Championships hosted by the University of Arizona at the Randolph North Golf Course, Saturday, Nov. 10. The men's 10,000-meter race begins at 9:30 a.m. MST, followed by the women's 6,000-meter race at 10:30 a.m. The 11th-ranked ASU women are in search of their fourth straight NCAA berth, while the 14th-ranked men seek their second in the last three years. At last year's regionals, ASU's women placed second led by individual winner Lisa Aguilera, while ASU's men finished fifth. The top two teams in both the men's and women's regional races receive automatic NCAA nods, while 13 additional teams from across the nation will receive at-large selections Monday, Nov. 12.

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 men's field includes six teams ranked in the top-25 national poll: No. 2 Stanford, No. 8 Portland, No. 13 UC Santa Barbara, No. 14 Arizona State, No. 18 Oregon and No. 20 Arizona. Five teams in the women's field are ranked in the top-25 including No. 1 Stanford, No. 8 Arizona, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 17 UCLA and No. 24 Washington.

ASU Men's Preview--
Junior All-American Fasil Bizuneh has been the men's leader all season, placing second at the Pac-10 meet, third at the Roy Griak and fifth at the NCAA Pre-Meet. Sophomore Juan Reyes was ASU's top finisher in the first two meets of the year, winning the UC Irvine Invitational and finishing second at the Roy Griak. Junior Ronnie Buchanan has come on strong in the last two showings as ASU's third-best finisher at the NCAA Pre-Meet (41st) and second best at Pac-10s (eighth). Freshman J.J. Duke (15th at Pac-10s) and senior J.R. Cox (46th at Pac-10s) have been consistent fourth and fifth runners for ASU.

ASU Women's Preview--
The women have been led by the one-two punch of senior All-Americans Lisa Aguilera and Kelly MacDonald. Aguilera has been ASU's front-runner and the team's highest finisher at the Roy Griak (second), NCAA Pre-Meet (third) and Pac-10s (seventh). MacDonald has been at Aguilera's heels, finishing third at the Roy Griak, seventh at the NCAA Pre-Meet and 10th at Pac-10s. Senior Brianna Torres has been ASU's consistent number three runner, and at Pac-10s edged MacDonald with a ninth-place finish. Junior Cody Sohn has been solid in the fourth spot, leading ASU at the UC Irvine Invitational (fourth), but missed Pac-10s with a migraine. Freshman Desiree Davila (22nd at Pac-10s) has made a smooth transition from high school to the collegiate rankings, having scored in every major meet for the Sun Devils. Senior Nikki Simmons (43rd at Pac-10s) has also been a solid member of ASU's top group.

Sun Devils in the Polls --
ASU's men climbed from No. 19 to No. 14 in the latest MONDO NCAA Div. I Men's Cross Country poll released Oct. 30, the team's highest national ranking so far this season. ASU's women dropped from No. 7 to No. 11 in the latest FinishLynx Women's NCAA Div. I Women's Cross Country poll released Oct. 29, matching the team's lowest ranking this season. The women have been ranked as high as fourth this year.

Qualifying for NCAAs --
Nine regional meets will be held Saturday, Nov. 10, to determine the field for the NCAA Championships in Greenville, S.C., Nov. 19. The top two teams in both the men's and women's races in each region will receive automatic bids to nationals. Monday, Nov. 12, 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.

Last Year --
The year 2000 saw the ASU women eclipse their team and individual record performances in regional competition. Junior Lisa Aguilera became the first ASU woman to win an individual crown in a championship race, enroute to setting a school record and earning NCAA West Region Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Year honors. Aguilera won the race in 20:25, ahead of Stanford's Lauren Fleshman (20:33) and ASU's Mary Duerbeck (20:36). Thanks to the efforts of Aguilera and Duerbeck, the women earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships with a school-best second-place finish. The Sun Devil men placed fifth, matching their second-best region finish in school history (ASU also finished fifth in 1984). ASU's top finisher was freshman Juan Reyes, who completed the 10,000m course in 31:17, placing 17th. Sophomore Kris Alexander and senior Garrett Jensen were not far behind Reyes, finishing 19th and 21st, respectively. Earning all-region honors were Aguilera, Duerbeck, junior Brianna Torres, Reyes, Alexander and Jensen.

Regional History --
The highest West Regional team finish for the ASU women is second (2000), while the top female individual finisher was Lisa Aguilera (first, 2000). Prior to last season, Kelly MacDonald held the individual record, finishing fourth in 1999. ASU's men set a school-record with a third place finish at the 1999 West Regional, the same year in which Isaiah Festa set the individual record finishing second.

Pac-10 Championship Recap --
Led by second-place finisher Fasil Bizuneh, the Arizona State men's cross country team earned a runner-up finish at the 2001 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships at the Pavilion Lakes Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., Saturday, Oct. 27. ASU's women's team placed third led by seventh-place finisher Lisa Aguilera. Stanford swept the team titles, with three Cardinal runners finishing in the top-five on both the men's and women's sides, including individual winners Grant Robison and Lauren Fleshman. Completing the men's 8,000m course in 24:06.4, just two seconds behind Robison, Bizuneh's second-place finish was the highest for an ASU male at the conference meet. As a team, the men also etched their name in the Sun Devil record books, setting a school record with a second-place finish, surpassing three straight fourth-place finishes. ASU's men had three top-10 finishers: Bizuneh (second), junior Ronnie Buchanan (eighth) and sophomore Juan Reyes (ninth). Like the men, ASU's women had three finishers completing the 6,000m course among the top-10: Aguilera (seventh), senior Brianna Torres (ninth) and senior Kelly MacDonald (10th). Those six Sun Devils earned All-Pac-10 honors, the largest number of ASU runners to earn the distinction in a single season. As a team, the women earned their third-straight top-three finish in as many seasons, having been the Pac-10 runner-up the last two years.

Pre-NCAA Meet Recap --
ASU's fourth-ranked women finished third in the Women's Purple race, while the 15th-ranked men finished ninth in the Men's Gold competition at the Furman Invitational/NCAA Pre-National Invitational hosted by Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Sat., Oct. 13. In a preview of the NCAA Championships, senior Lisa Aguilera finished third (21:05) and senior Kelly MacDonald finished seventh (21:29) on the 6,000-meter course. Also scoring for ASU were senior Brianna Torres (30th), junior Cody Sohn (35th) and freshman Desiree Davila (65th). On the men's side, ASU's ninth-place finish in the 8,000-meter Gold race was bolstered by junior Fasil Bizuneh, placing fifth (24:25). Also scoring for ASU were sophomore Juan Reyes (21st), junior Ronnie Buchanan (41st), freshman J.J. Duke (77th) and senior J.R. Cox (87th).

Women Win '01 Roy Griak Crown --
For the 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, Sept. 29. 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.

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.

Up Next --
NCAA Championships hosted by Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Monday, Nov. 19.

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