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ASU, Notre Dame meets await Sun Devil Harriers

September 30, 2009

Two meets await the Arizona State University cross country team on Friday with the team's top runners heading to the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind., while the remaining Sun Devils will remain in the Valley of the Sun to compete in the 24th ASU Invitational. Several of the top teams in the nation will be on hand to compete at Notre Dame while ASU's lone home meet of the season will be part of the Desert Twilight XC Festival that will feature seven high school races, two college races and one community run that is open to the public. The Twilight competition will be held at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa (next door to ASU Polytechnic) and there is no admission fee for spectators.

Desert Twilight XC Festival Meet Schedule:

4:30 pm - High School Freshman (Boys’ & Girl’s combined)
5:00 pm - High School Junior Varsity (Boy’s)
5:30 pm - High School Junior Varsity (Girl’s)
6:00 pm - Collegiate Women
6:30 pm - High School Varsity (Girl’s)
7:35 pm - High School Varsity (Boy’s)
8:00 pm - Collegiate Men
8:25 pm - High School Sweepstakes (Boy’s)
8:55 pm - High School Sweepstakes (Girl’s)

Program newcomer Anna Sperry, a transfer from BYU, raced for the Sun Devils for the first time two weeks ago at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson and came away with the victory, covering the three-mile circuit in 17:03.00. The ASU Female Athlete of the Week for her performance, Sperry gave ASU's women the individual title for the third year in a row and the sixth time in the last eight years in Tucson.

Individuals that want to run in the Desert Twilight Community 5k Run on Friday night and have not registered online or through the mail can do so on site between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the day of the race. A registration table will be set up near the club house at Toka Sticks Golf Course where entries will be accepted.

The Sun Devils will be playing host to their only home meet of the season this week as they welcome teams to the 24th ASU Invitational. With the 5,000m races being part of the Desert Twilight XC Festival on Friday night, the ASU Invitational will be calling Toka Sticks Golf Course 'home' this year and making it the sixth venue used for the meet in its history. The ASU Invitational first was held in 1986 at Red Mountain Ranch in Mesa before two years of racing at the Point South Mountain Resort in Phoenix. Starting in 1989, ASU's Karsten Golf Course was the venue for the ASU Invitational and after eight years, moved to Freestone Park in Gilbert for five seasons. The most recent course used has been Kiwanis Park in Tempe, which served as the site from 2002 through last season.

The course at Toka Sticks in Mesa will not be the only debut made this weekend for the Sun Devils as three individuals will wear the maroon and gold for the first time and race for the men's team at the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind. Junior Zeke Van Patten and rookies Doug Smith and Nick Happe will make their ASU debuts in the 8,000m race and will be three of the eight Sun Devils running that day. Two other men also will be running their first races of the season as Brandon Bethke and Dylan Hatcher have not competed yet in 2009.

The U.S. Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released its first national rankings (week one) on September 29 with both Sun Devil squads slipping down the list. The women, who were ranked No. 11 in the preseason poll two weeks ago, fell two positions to No. 13 while the men, who entered the year ranked No. 29, are not ranked. The men received 13 votes which has them as the "33rd" team listed on Top 30 list. Both squads could climb higher in the rankings with strong performances against nationally ranked foes at Notre Dame on Friday.

At the Notre Dame Invitational, the women will run a 5,000m race starting at 4:15 p.m. ET while the men will compete in an 8,000m run starting at 5 p.m. ET. The women's race has 20 teams entered with half of those teams currently ranked in the national Top 30, including No. 1 Washington, No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Princeton. The Sun Devils -- at No. 13 -- are the fifth-highest ranked team in the field that also includes fellow Top 20 teams No. 12 Providence and No. 15 Florida. Representing the Sun Devils in the meet will be Kari Hardt, Kate Lydy, Cherise McNair, Lindsay Prescott, Angela Spadafino, Anna Sperry and Kauren Tarver. On the men's side, 23 teams are entered with seven ranked in the Top 30 nationally. No. 11 Tulsa and No. 15 Providence are the highest ranked squads in the competition that also will feature No. 22 Washington, No. 24 New Mexico, No. 26 Florida State, No. 28 Notre Dame and No. 30 Princeton. The men will be represented by Brandon Bethke, Ben Engelhardt, Nick Happe, Dylan Hatcher, Jeff Helmer, Patrick Milloy, Doug Smith and Zeke Van Patten.

The ASU Invitational will feature 13 different schools with nine hailing from the state of Arizona with two from New Mexico, and one each from California and Texas. Runners from Arizona State, Arizona and Northern Arizona will be on hand with NCAA Division II team Western New Mexico and NAIA team Cal State East Bay also running. Eight college/community college teams also will be on hand, including El Paso CC, who brings the top-ranked women's team in NJCAA Division I and the 10th-ranked men's squad while Paradise Valley CC, the reigning NJCAA Division I men's champions, enter the meet ranked fourth. Other schools set to compete include: GateWay CC, Glendale CC, Navajo Technical (NM), Phoenix College, Pima CC and Scottsdale CC.

The Desert Twilight XC Festival will have an uncommon schedule for cross country as most of the 10 races will be after the sun goes down and the lights on the golf course come on. Glow in the dark shirts also will be available during the event for purchase to add another interesting twist to the Festival.

The women, who were without several key runners in the race, took second place with 41 points as host Arizona won the title with 28 points and fellow Pac-10 foe UCLA was third with 61. The ASU men, also running without the services of a few of its top individuals, took third with 55 points, just one point off UA's second-place score of 54 with both trailing meet winner UCLA's 32 points. In the second race of the competition, Sperry was constantly near the head of the field and, with just over 600 yards to go, moved from third to second place. The junior transfer from BYU, Sperry closed the gap on the then-leader and passed her with just yards to go to claim the title in 17:03 over the three-mile course. Sperry joins a list of five ASU women have won the race following Ali Kielty (2008), Jenna Kingma (2007), Brooke Bennett (2005) and Amy Hastings (2004 and 2003). Sperry was followed across the line by Lindsay Prescott (7th, 17:20), Angela Spadafino (10th, 17:27), Camille Olson (11th, 17:29) and Kauren Tarver (12th, 17:40) as the five scoring runners for the team. Three others finished in the Top 20 for ASU, including Kari Hardt (13th, 17:40), Cherise McNair (15th, 17:41) and Kate Lydy (17th, 17:55). In all, 15 women ran in an ASU uniform with six making their Sun Devil debuts. Three other women also competed in the meet, but were unattached from the team, with two finishing in the Top 25. Those two women included Kevyn Murphy (19th, 18:06) and Karlee Owens (23rd, 18:20). The meet opened earlier in the day with the men's 4.25-mile run where six with ties to the program finished among the Top 15 overall. Ben Engelhardt led the way for the Sun Devils as he placed fifth overall in 21:14 while Jeff Helmer was right behind him in ninth place at 21:33. ASU's scoring positions were rounded out by Daniel Lovell (23rd, 22:17) and Cameron ListonDoug Smith (21:41) and Nick Happe (21:52), who competed unattached, placed 10th and 12th overall, respectively, while junior transfer Zeke Van Patten, also running unattached, was 15th in 21:57. The other men representing ASU in the meet included Mason McHenry (30th, 22:47), Matt Boughton (32nd, 22:53), Collin Eckelman (39th, 23:18) and Ben Jankunas (61st, 25:23). Three other men also competed in the race unattached to the program with Matt Estlund (22:15) posting the only other Top 25 mark with a 21st-place showing. (27th, 22:25). Freshmen

Last year at Kiwanis Park, true freshman Kate Lydy ran 18:20.3 to win the women's race as an unattached competitor while Alonso Contreras, also running unattached, finished second overall in the men's race in 24:58.3, making him just the fourth man in Kiwanis Park history to break 25 minutes in the race. The Sun Devils did not have enough runners in uniform to score as a team in both races. Maureen Stringham was the top ASU woman in the race by finishing 15th while the men's top runner was Michael Anderson, who was 21st overall on the day.

In the previous 23 runnings of the ASU Invitational, the men and women have each won the team title on three occasions with the Sun Devils sweeping the crowns in 2003. The women also won in 1988 and 2000 while the men have won every other year since (2005 and 2007). Individually, ASU won the women's title in 2005 (Brooke Bennett), 2003 (Amy Hastings) and 1997 (Mary Duerbeck) while the men have added four with crowns in 2000 (Phillip Prince), 1991 and 1988 (both by Todd Lewis) and in 1986 (Dan Fisher). Several ASU runners that were competing unattached from the team also have won the race, including Kate Lydy in 2008.

ASU has not competed in the Notre Dame Invitational and will be making its first appearance in the meet in South Bend this week.

Of those returning Sun Devils, five enter the season with at least one individual All-America honor earned while representing Arizona State either in cross country or on the track. For the women, both Kari Hardt and Ali Kielty have earned the national honor in cross country as Hardt finished 39th overall last year and Kielty took 42nd in the 2007 meet. On the men's side, Brandon Bethke earned his first All-America honor as a Sun Devil by finishing fourth at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 5,000m run; Mason McHenry was an indoor All-American in 2009 while competing in the 800m run; and Nectaly Barbosa collected a pair of honors during the 2008 track seasons, first as a member of the national runner-up indoor distance medley relay before earning All-America accolades outdoors in the 800m run.

Six women and five men make up the newest members of the Sun Devil roster with two of those women and one man joining the program after transferring to Arizona State this summer. The two women that transferred in include senior Allie Kieffer (West Islip, N.Y.), who comes to ASU from Wake Forest, and junior Anna Sperry, (Simi Valley, Calif.) who comes to the Valley from BYU, while the men's lone transfer is Zeke Van PattenKevyn Murphy (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Karlee Owens (Arroyo Grande, Calif.), Natalie Todd (St. Louis, Mo.) and Liz Zuniga (West Covina, Calif.) for the women and Matt Estlund (St. Charles, Mo.), Nick Happe (St. Charles, Mo.), Steven Schnieders (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Doug Smith (Corvallis, Ore.), who formerly ran at Western Oregon University. The remaining four women and four men are all true freshmen this fall and include (Roxbury, N.J.).

Advanced to their 11th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Cross Country Championships and placed 14th overall (381 points)... appearance streak at the national meet currently stands as the third-longest in the nation while their streak also ranks as the eighth-longest in NCAA history... earned a berth into the national meet by finishing fourth overall at the NCAA West Region Championships (128 points) after taking fourth in the Pac-10 Championships (105 points)... individually, Kari Hardt led the team much of the year as she was the top finisher in each of the three championship races... she earned her first All-America honor by placing 39th overall at the NCAA Championships (20:42.10), was an All-West Region selection by placing 10th (20:18.96) at the regional meet and was a second-team All-Pac-10 honoree for finishing ninth in the league meet (20:26.57)... Hardt also was one of two women to win an individual race on the season as she captured the title at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota (21:18.40) two weeks after Ali Kielty won the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson (13:39.62) to lead the women to the team title as well... Kielty also was an award winner as she was a second-team All-Pac-10 honoree while joining Jenna Kingma as a member of the All-West Region team... academically, Kielty earned recognition, along with the team, from the USTFCCCA while Kielty, Kingma, Angela Spadafino and Maureen Stringham were Academic All-Pac-10 honorees... Kingma was inaugural recipient of the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for Women's Cross Country, presented by Toyo Tires.

Posted a pair of eighth-place finishes in their two championship appearances, scoring 198 points at the Pac-10 Championships before scoring 290 points in the NCAA West Region Championships... Patrick Milloy was the top runner of the men during the season as he was the first across the line in four races, including the championship events where he placed 28th in the Pac-10 (24:32.61) and 42nd in the region (30:23.11)... similar to the women, the men also won the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson after taking second at the season-opening George Kyte Invitational in Flagstaff... academically, the men's team earned recognition from the USTFCCCA... seven Sun Devils also earned Academic All-Pac-10 honors, including a first-team selection for Thomas Petersen and second-team picks for Ben Engelhardt and Daniel Lovell.

Several Sun Devils will be back on the course next week as they return to Kiwanis Park on Saturday, October 10, to compete in the Canyon West Classic that will be hosted by Mesa Community College. ASU's top runners will be resting up for their trip to Terre Haute, Ind., on October 17, where they will compete in the NCAA Pre-National Meet on the same course used for the NCAA Championships later in the season.