Sun Devil Harriers Open 2003 Season in Tucson

Sept. 15, 2003

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- The 2003 cross country season gets underway for Arizona State Friday with the Sun Devils traveling south to Arizona for the Dave Murray Invitational.

The women will compete in the 4,000m race starting at 5:15 p.m. while the men will run the 6,000m circuit beginning at 5:45 p.m. Arizona and Arizona State will field full squads while Northern Arizona will send several individual competitors to the non-scoring meet. The rest of the field will be filled out with open runners.

The women's FinishLynx national rankings were released Sept. 3 with the Sun Devils entering the preseason poll at No. 19. The men's MONDO poll (Sept. 7) saw ASU receive votes to place them 38th in order. The men also are ranked No. 5 in the west region.

Though both squads are young, they have experience. On the women's side, five of the seven participants in the NCAA Championships a year ago return and of the nine total returnees, seven are sophomores (with one junior and one senior). On the men's side, 13 return including four juniors and two seniors to help lead the eight rookies and five sophomores.

After a successful rookie campaign for the Sun Devils last year, Amy Hastings competed in the USATF Junior Cross Country Championships in Houston and finished third in the race. For her efforts, Hastings earned a spot on the USA's World Junior Cross Country Championships team that competed in Switzerland. In the world race, Hastings finished 20th overall, was the top American finisher and helped the team to fifth place in the world.

Walt Drenth is in his eighth year as the head coach of the cross country programs as well as overseeing the distance corps on the track. Drenth has taken the Sun Devil program to the ranks of the national elite, as well as mentoring the top performers the school has produced. Included in that list are ASU's only two-time cross country All-Americans in Fasil Bizuneh and Lisa Aguilera. He has been named the Pac-10's coach of the year twice (1999 & 2000) and also was the 2000 USTCA West Region Coach of the Year. Prior to his arrival, neither squad had made it to the NCAA Championships as a team. Since then, the men have gone twice and women have made the field each of the last five years. In all, Drenth has been named a conference coach of the year nine times, district/region coach of the year four times and has coached 12 teams to the national meet.

Louie Quintana, now in his second season with the program, enters his first season as the assistant coach for the team after a one-year stint as the graduate assistant last year. Replacing him on the roster is Liz Ackley, a former harrier for the legendary Dr. Jack Daniels at SUNY Cortland College. Ackley joined the staff in August.

The women set school records for low points at both the Pac-10 and NCAA West Region meets on its way to runner-up finishes in both. Following the regional race, the women advanced to the NCAA Championships where they placed in a tie for 23rd.

Individually for the women, Amy Hastings led the way at 69th place with Cody Sohn (100th), Mandi Fitz-Gustafson (118th), Anna Masinelli (125th) and Jessica Scalzo (137th) rounding out the scoring. Scalzo led the charge throughout the year and earned Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year.

The men placed third in the conference and fifth at the regional, falling short of qualifying for nationals. Individually, Fasil Bizuneh and J.J. Duke earned berths into the NCAA meet, placing 55th and 101st, respectively.

ASU travels to Minnesota Sept. 27 for the Roy Griak Invitational. The men leadoff with an 8K race at noon with the women running the 6K at 1 p.m.

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