2002 Women's Cross Country Outlook

Aug. 28, 2002

In three of the last four years, including 2001, the UCLA women's cross country squad, under ninth-year head coach Eric Peterson, has qualified as an at-large team to the NCAA Championships. In 2002, the Bruins return six of their top seven runners from last season's three major meets - NCAA Championships (21st), NCAA West Region Qualifying (5th) and Pacific-10 Championships (4th).

A young and talented squad a year ago, the Bruins this season return top runners - juniors, Valerie Flores (San Pedro HS), Lena Nilsson (Vallentuna, Sweden) and Tiffany Burgess (Van Nuys/Birmingham HS), along with sophomores, Alejandra Barrientos (Felton/San Lorenzo Valley HS), Carolyn Shea (Waterville, ME HS) and Lori Mann (Coto de Caza/ Santa Margarita Catholic HS).

In 2001, Flores came on strong at the end of the cross country season and led the Bruins in two of the final three meets, placing 19th (No. 2 UCLA finish) at the Pac-10 and the leading UCLA runner at the NCAA West Region (23rd). Flores was UCLA's No. 3 team finisher at the NCAA Championships. As a high school distance standout, Flores in 1999 ran in the Footlocker National Cross Country Championships.

Nilsson last season was not only a contributor in cross country, she won the CS Fullerton II Invitational and ran for the Bruins in the Pac-10, West Region and NCAA Championships, she also had an outstanding track campaign. In August, she won the 800m and 1500m at Sweden's National Championships. At the 2002 NCAA Outdoor, Nilsson won the 1500m (4:12.60); at the Pac-10, she became only the second woman in conference meet history to win both the 800m (2:03.88) and 1500m (4:20.81) and was named the Conference Women's Athlete of the Year and at the NCAA Indoor, Nilsson anchored (1600m) the Bruins' winning distance medley relay (10:58.19) and placed second (4:38.88) in the mile. On August 13 in Malmo, Sweden, she set the school record in the 800m (2:02.26) and on July 6 in Brunswick, ME, Nilsson set the school record in the 1500m (4:09.89, breaking the old mark of 4:10.3, Francie Larrieu, 1974).

Burgess, like Nilsson, was a dual cross country and track standout for the Bruins in 2001-02. In cross country, she ran in the NCAA West Region and national championship meets. In track, she entered the NCAA Outdoor with the nation's fastest collegiate 800m mark (2:03.73, at the time, breaking the old school record of 2:04.37, Francie Larrieu, 1974); placed second in the 800m at the Pac-10 and at the NCAA Indoor, Burgess ran (first leg, 1200m) on the Bruins' winning distance medley relay and earned All-American status on UCLA's 4 X 400m relay (third-leg, fifth-place, 3:36.59).

Barrientos was a true freshman last season in both cross country and track. In cross country, she was UCLA's second-highest finisher at the NCAA Championships, third-highest placement (31st) at the West Region Qualifying and No. 4 Bruin finisher at the Pac-10 (23rd). She was also UCLA's highest finisher at the CS Fullerton Jammin' (5th), Sundodger (3rd), Roy Griak (21st) and NCAA Preview (36th) meets. In track at the Pac-10 Championships, Barrientos scored in the 1500m (fifth-place, 4:26.95, personal-best) and also placed 12th in the 5000m (18:30.83). One of the top U. S. prep distance runners during her high school career, Barrientos was a National Footlocker participant, CA State Cross Country champion and a two-time CA State 1600m champion.

Shea, last season as a true freshman, in cross country was UCLA's top runner at the NCAA Championships, No. 3 placement at the Pac-10 (20th), No. 4 finisher (36th) at the West Region Qualifying meet and last February in Portland, ran in the USA Junior Cross Country Championships. In track last spring at the Pac-10, Shea scored in the 3000m steeplechase (sixth-place, 11:02.18) and placed 13th in the 5000m (18:43.21).

Mann, also a true freshman last year, was a season-long contributor in cross country for the Bruins. She was in UCLA's Top 7 at the Pac-10, West Region Qualifying and NCAA Championships. Her highest cross country placement in 2001 was 14th at the CS Fullerton Jammin' Invitational.

'With seven of our top eight runners returning from last year's squad, and 10 new freshmen joining the program, our staff and team are eagerly awaiting the start of this cross country season,' said Peterson, in his third year directing both the UCLA women's and men's cross country teams. 'We have a rich mixture of experience, depth and youth. The individuals on this team are primarily middle distance running specialists. However, four of these athletes have significant cross country accomplishments to their credit. Nilsson (Swedish Junior Champion), Barrientos and Timinsky (California State Champions) and Flores, a National Footlocker qualifier.'

The Bruins will get additional experience from five other runners returning from last season. They are - redshirt freshman Maribeth Buche (Yorba Linda/Esperanza); junior Jessica Marr (Hayward HS), who ran in the 2001 Pac-10 cross country meet and at the 2002 NCAA Indoor, Marr ran the third leg (800m) on UCLA's winning distance medley relay; redshirt junior Melissa McBain (Thousand Oaks/Moorpark College/Thousand Oaks HS); senior Ysanne Williams (Albany, NY HS), a four-time track All-American and sophomore Carmen Winant (Philadelphia, PA/Germantown Friends).

Leading contenders, from the incoming Bruin freshman class, to contribute this season are Jenna Timinsky (Encinitas/San Dieguito HS), Sarah West (Davis HS) and Allison Hall (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS).

As a senior last spring, Timinsky, a San Diego County CIF cross country champion, finished second in the 800m (2:09.48) at the 2002 CA State meet and won the event (2:09.59) at the Golden West Invitational. Her 2:08.74 in the 800m was the CA State leader last season.

West at the 2002 CA State meet ran a personal-best 4:59.08 in 1600m qualifying and placed fourth in the 3200m with a time of 10:43.74. Her 3200m personal-best is 10:43.03.

Hall placed fifth in the 800m at last spring's CA State meet and her top marks from 2002 were 2:12 (800m), 5:01 (1600m) and 11:12 (3200m).

'This team has proven experience at the championship level in both cross country and track,' said Peterson. 'We have talented redshirts and several other experienced runners who will be back for this season, along with a freshman class that is talented enough to battle for scoring positions on this team. We have the opportunity to be one of the top 15 teams in the nation this season.'

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