ASU Women's Cross Country Finishes Tied for 23rd at National Meet

Nov. 25, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State women's cross country team, bolstered by numerous freshman in the starting lineup, accumulated 549 points and ended in a tie with William & Mary for 23rd place Monday at the 2002 NCAA Championships. The race, held in Terre Haute, Ind., on the campus of Indiana State, marked the fifth year in a row that the Sun Devil women advanced to the national meet and returned to Tempe with a Top 25 finish. Fasil Bizuneh (Indianapolis, Ind.) and JJ Duke (Clovis, Calif.), two representatives of the men's program, also competed individually in the national event. Stanford won the men's team title with BYU taking the women's crown.

'I think we ran like freshman for the first time this year,' Walt Drenth, ASU head coach, said of the women. 'We were capable of being higher but that is because we did not get into the race early enough. We fell behind early and could not pass enough runners to make a push for a higher team finish. We felt ready to go. Individually, they all ran good races. It is tough, with this caliber of competition, to start behind a group because that limits your room to run in the race. We couldn't get out and run like we had been all year and that hurt us. (Jessica) Scalzo was an example, for a lack of a better way to put it, of how tough it is to run from behind. It is tough to run in the back and try to pass 200 people in your way. I thought Amy Hastings (Fr., Leavenworth, Kan.) and Cody Sohn (Sr., Carmel, Ind.) did well for us, as did the others in the race.'

Hastings led the way with a 69th-place finish (21:14.3) and was followed by Sohn's 100th-place finish (21:29.4). Desiree Davila (So., Chula Vista, Calif.) was third in line for the Sun Devils, running the circuit in 21:37.8 for a 118th-place ending to the season while freshman Anna Masinelli (Scottsdale, Ariz.) finished 125th (21:42.2). Jessica Scalzo (Fr., Snoqualmie, Wash.), who had finished first on the team in each of the first five races, crossed the line in 137th-place (21:50.0) Also competing for the team, though not scoring in the event, were Mandi Fitz-Gustafson (Fr., The Dalles, Ore.), 174th place at 22:09.6, and Liz Lindgren (Fr., Klamath Falls, Ore.), 187th place at 22:20.9.

Bizuneh, a two-time All-American, ended his cross country career with a 55th-place finish (30:46.1). If Bizuneh had finished in the Top 25, the cut-off for All-American honors, he would have become the first three-time honoree in ASU cross country history for men or women. Duke, only a sophomore and the 2001 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, made the circuit in 31:08.8 and finished in 104th place.

'I though Fasil ran his best race of the year,' Drenth said. 'Whatever may have held him back at the start of the year, he came out of it and ran well today. He learned a lot and I think that will help his progress on the track this year. Our optimism is very high for him as it is for JJ Duke. He could have gotten out better today. It was a talented field and tough to fight through. I think JJ will be an All-American next year and help get our guys into a high national finish.'

'Our optimism is very high for the following years to come,' Drenth said. 'They understand what we need to improve upon to become a better team. They know they need to be very intense. Now, we will take a break ad get ready to run on the track. After that, if we can get some of the other talented runners we have on the sideline healthy again, we should fare a lot better in the years to come.'

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