2002 Men's Cross Country Outlook

Aug. 28, 2002

Although the Bruin men's team does not return Bryan Green, their top runner for the last two seasons whose eligibility has expired, UCLA returns three of its top seven performers from last season's Pac-10 (6th) and NCAA West Region (9th) meets. Also rejoining the Bruin roster will be sophomore Jon Rankin, a proven runner who missed all of 2001-02 because of an injury.

UCLA's top returner is sophomore Ben Aragon (Santee/West Hills HS). As a true freshman in cross country last fall, Aragon was UCLA's No. 2 finisher at both the Pac-10 (19th) and NCAA West Region (25th) races. In track, Aragon placed sixth (3:54.17, 3:53.91Q) in the 1500m at the U. S. Junior meet and seventh (3:48.89) at the Pac-10 championships. In 2002, Aragon ran personal-bests of 1:51.01 (800m) and a team leading 3:48.63 in the 1500m.

Rankin (Spring Valley/Monte Vista) missed most of the 2001-02 cross country and indoor/outdoor track seasons with leg stress fractures. As a true freshman in 2000-01, Rankin won the 1500m (3:51.8) at the U. S. Juniors and in the USC dual meet. His personal-best times were 1:51.57 (800m), 3:47.47 (1500m, team leader) and 14:56.07 (5000m). In cross country, Rankin was UCLA's No. 3 runner, placing 24th at both the Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional meets.

Joining Aragon and Rankin as returners from last season are - senior Phil Young (La Canada HS) and sophomores Puneet Mahan (Norwalk HS), Reggie Oronoz (Pasadena/Loyola HS) and Bryan Bauerle (Lakeside/West Hills HS). Last fall, Young and Mahan both ran in the Pac-10 and NCAA West Region meets, Oronoz ran for the Bruins at the conference championships and Bauerle competed at the NCAA West Region Qualifying.

'Aragon and Rankin, both underclassmen, will be our team leaders in 2002,' said Bruin head coach Eric Peterson, in his third season coaching the UCLA men's team. 'We lose three seniors from last season, so this will be a very young team.'

Also returning from the 2001 cross country season to give the Bruins more experience will be sophomores, Nick Thornton (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) and Lucas Crowley (San Jose/Arch Bishop Mitty). As a redshirt freshman in cross country last season, Thornton ran in five meets and Crowley competed in four invitationals. In track, Thornton qualified for the Pac-10 meet in the 800m (a team leading 1:49.30).

UCLA's newcomers will be led by Erik Emilsson, a sophomore transfer from Tulane. In August at Sweden's National Championships, Emilsson qualified for the 1500m final. At the 2001 NCAA South Central Cross Country Regionals, Emilsson earned All-District honors after finishing 20th (31:17). He also earned All-Conference USA honors after placing 11th at the conference championships, helping the Green Wave win the league cross country title.

Green, from Palmdale (Littlerock HS), qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual for the last two cross country seasons. Last fall, he placed 18th at the Pac-10 and 22nd at the NCAA West Regional. As a junior, Green was eighth in the conference meet and 10th at the Regional. In track, his 29:25.20 in the 10,000m is No. 9 in school history.

'We will miss Bryan's talent and leadership,' Peterson said. 'We will have only one senior (Phil Young) on our roster this fall, so our younger athletes are going to get an immediate opportunity to exhibit their talents.'

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