USC's Cross Country Team To Run At The Pac-10 Championships Saturday

Oct. 23, 2007

The USC women's cross country team looks to continue its impressive season on Saturday (Oct. 27) when it competes at the 2007 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships hosted by Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. The 6K race is at Trysting Tree Golf Club and begins at 10:30 a.m. The course features two laps around the golf course with 90 percent of the run on grass and the other 10 percent run on a dirt service road.

The Pac-10 Conference is one of the toughest in the country for cross country competition, as it features No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State and No. 9 Washington. The defending NCAA champion Cardinal have won the last 11 Pac-10 cross country team titles.

'It has been awhile since we have had a season like this which saw us improve every race and be consistent the entire season,' said USC cross country coach Tom Walsh. 'It has been about nine years, since the days of Grazyna Penc, Emebet Shiferaw and Anna Lopaciuch since we have had this kind of consistency.'

'Sarah (Cocco) and Zsofia (Erdelyi) realistically have a chance to be in the top 10,' added Walsh. 'The favorite will be Arianna Lambie of Stanford, the two-time defending conference champion, so this will be their biggest challenge of the season.'

Freshman Sarah Cocco has been up to all challenges this season, winning the Aztec Invitational race in San Diego, Calif. with the fastest 5K time by a Trojan since 1998 (17:43) and then winning the Pepperdine Invitational 6K in Malibu, Calif. with a school-record time of 20:00. Freshman Zsofia Erdelyi had a reputation in her native Hungary for running well in the biggest meets and is coming off a win at the Triton Invitational in San Diego, Calif. with a course-record time of 21:50.4.

Senior captain Laura Meyers captured the Trojans' fourth individual title this season, winning the Titan Invitational in Fullerton, Calif. last week with a time of 18:08. She also has big meet experience, helping lead Columbia to three-straight Ivy League Championships and qualifying for the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

'Laura's win at Fulleton has really helped her confidence and is exactly what she needed going into the Pac-10 Championships,' said Walsh. 'The first six or seven weeks of the season she was working to get back to her old self and finally arrived a week before the Pac-10 Championships.'

One of USC's most consistent runners all season is sophomore Bridget Helgerson. She led the Trojans at the CS Fullerton Season Opener meet and has improved her times every step of the way.

'I expect big things from Bridget at the Pac-10s,' said Walsh. 'She hasn't raced since San Diego and is eager to show her improvement. She hails from the Northwest (Portland, Ore.) and will have friends and family at this meet.'

The three other Trojans making the travel squad for the conference championships are sophomores Chanel Fischetti and Katherine Ellis, and freshman Zara Lukens.

'Chanel, Kat and Zara will try and give us depth at the fifth spot,' said Walsh. 'Chanel has really competed well in the second half of the season, while Kat and Zara keep improving every week as shown by their performances at Fullerton last week.'

The Trojans set a school record this season with four individual wins in five races and the team finishes improved each week from 6th, to 4th, to 3rd to 2nd twice.

The real battle may be for fifth place which is expected to be between Washington State, Arizona, Oregon State, UCLA and USC. At a high level meet like the Pac-10 Championships, places 5-8 could be decided by just a few points, so it will be important for all of the Trojan runners to compete well. If the Trojan team finishes in the top six, they will take a team to the NCAA West Regional in Eugene, Ore. on Nov. 10. If not, the individuals who post qualifying times will advance on to the West Regional.

'It is a championship atmosphere and our top three runners have experience at the top level and that should help us,' said Walsh. 'They've been doing a good job of explaining what to expect and how to approach a big meet. I've noticed that Sarah's, Zsofia's and Laura's competitiveness has rubbed off on the rest of the team and hope it continues the rest of the season.'

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