NCAA West Meet Awaits Arizona State Cross Country

Nov. 9, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University cross country program heads to Fresno, Calif., Saturday as they are set to run in the 2004 NCAA West Region Championships to be held at Woodward Park and hosted by Fresno State. Both the men and women will look to finish in the Top 2 team positions to earn automatic berths to the NCAA Championships, set for Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The regional meets being held throughout the nation Saturday serve as the first stage of the NCAA Championships with the Top 2 teams in each of the eight regions advancing to the national meet. The NCAA will then select 13 at-large teams (announced Monday) to fill out the field of 29. On an individual basis, only the Top 3 finishers at the region meet that are not part of a team that qualifies for the national race will be invited to compete Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.

From 1979 to 1997, the Arizona State women had never competed in the NCAA Championships. That all changed in the 1998 season when the Sun Devils advanced to the national meet and finished tied for 23rd. Since then, ASU has been a mainstay at the NCAA meet as it has been in the field each of the past six years. An invitation this year would push their current streak to seven years in a row at the NCAA Championships.

The regional field will be comprised of nearly 260 athletes hailing from teams from the Pac-10, Western Athletic (WAC), Big West, Big Sky and West Coast conferences. One year ago, 26 men's teams and 31 women's teams entered the race held in Portland, Ore., and hosted by Portland.

At the Pac-10 Championships, Amy Hastings became the first Sun Devil runner (male or female) to capture the individual conference championship, winning the race in 20:19 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. She now heads to the regional race, another meet that has seen several Sun Devils take runner-up honors, including Hastings last year, but not capture the crown.

Amy Hastings' win at the conference meet was not only historic on the grounds of being the first Pac-10 cross country title won in program history, but it also gave her the fourth win in her history, tying Lynn Nelson (1983) for wins in a career. The victory also gave her two for the season, tying her for second for wins in a season. Nelson holds that record after securing all four of her wins in the 1983 season for the Sun Devils.

Individual records were not the only things being broken at the Pac-10 Championships over the weekend. The women scored 47 points to set the record for low points in a conference meet, bettering the previous best of 59 set in 2002 when the team also finished second. For the men, the 64 points recorded also broke the previous standard, besting the 2001 total of 84 points.

In 1966, the Sun Devil men, competing in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), finished third overall at the WAC meet with 67 points. That total not only is the record for Sun Devil teams in WAC meets, but also in all conference meets including the Pac-10 ... until now. The men's 64 points not only broke the previous ASU record low in Pac-10 meets, but also bettered the overall low for any conference meet.

When the national polls were released Oct. 19, the Sun Devil men were ranked No. 9, tying the school record for highest ranking also attained on Oct. 19 (1999). Following a runner-up finish at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago, the men moved up to No. 8 (Nov. 2) to claim the highest ranking in the history of the program. The women, although they have not climbed as high as their school-record ranking of No. 3, they have been mainstays in the Top 30 polls this season, remaining in the Top 10 for the past four polls and sit No. 7 this week.

A year ago in Portland, Ore., the women finished fourth overall with 112 points while the men took eighth with 189 points. The women, led by Amy Hastings' runner-up finish, would later earn an at-large invitation to the NCAA Championships while Aaron Aguayo (18th) and the men did not get selected for the national race.

Both the men and women captured second-place team finishes at the 2004 Pac-10 Championships, held Oct. 30 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. Amy Hastings paced the women by capturing the individual title while Aaron Aguayo led the men with his third-place finish.

The women return two, two-time All-Americans this year in Amy Hastings and Desiree Davila. Both earned the national distinction in cross country a year ago with Davila grabbing the accolade in the 5,000m run on the outdoor track in 2003 and Hastings adding the indoor honor for the 5,000m in 2004.

During the past outdoor track and field season, the Sun Devil distance runners again showed their dominance in the 3,000m steeplechase event at the Pac-10 Championships, this year sweeping the two races. On the women's side, Amy Hastings captured her first conference crown and extended the ASU winning streak as a Sun Devil woman has won the event each of the four years the conference has contested the race. Kelly MacDonald won the inaugural race in 2001 with Lisa Aguilera winning in 2002 and 2003.

On the men's side, Aaron Aguayo not only became the first Sun Devil to win the race since current graduate assistant Jeremy Rasmussen took the event in 2000, he also became the first ASU runner to win the regional race in the same event and earned a berth into the national meet.

Depending upon the outcome of the regional races, the Sun Devils could be heading to the NCAA Championships, slated for Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind. That meet concludes the 2004 cross country season.

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