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Harriers head to Stanford for NCAA West Region races

November 13, 2008
The Arizona State University cross country teams will travel to Stanford, Calif., this weekend to compete in the NCAA West Region Championships on the Stanford Golf Course with the goal of reaching the NCAA Championships (Nov. 24) in reach. The meet will open at 11 a.m. PT with the women's 6,000m race while the men will run at noon PT in a 10,000m race.

There are nine regions holding meets on Saturday with the Top 2 teams in each race (18 teams total) earning automatic berths into the NCAA Cross Country Championships on November 24 in Terre Haute, Ind. The 31-team field will be filled out Monday by the NCAA, who will select 13 others teams as at-large selections into the meet. Individually, the Top 4 finishers in each region that are not on a team that advances to the national meet will also be invited to the national race.

Individual honors are up for grabs this weekend as well with the Top 25 runners in each race earning all-region honors. Last year, six total Sun Devils earned the regional honors, including four women and two men. Those honorees included Kyle Alcorn (7th) and Jeff Helmer (14th) for the men and women's runners Jenna Kingma (8th), Ali Kielty (11th), Camille Olson (23rd) and Kari Hardt (25th).

The West region is comprised of schools from Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Last year, 24 men's teams and 31 women's teams entered into the meet that was held in Springfield, Ore.

Here are six quick notes on ASU as its heads to the Pac-10 Championships:
1k - The regional meet is being held at Stanford for the third time in recent years, including 2002 and 2005 before this year's meet
2k - The Sun Devil women have recorded two of their three lowest point totals in the program's regional history, scoring 48 points in 2005 and 70 in 2002
3k - The men's scores at the regional meet at Stanford rank third (100 in 2005) and sixth (125 in 2002)
4k - The women are looking to remain a fixture of the Top 4 at the regional meet, a position they have not finished outside of since taking sixth in 1998
5k - Like the team's history in the Pac-10 meet, only one race victory has been recorded by the Sun Devils as Lisa Aguilera won the women's race in 2000

The U.S. Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released the national rankings for week seven on November 11 the Sun Devil women slipping to No. 16 while the men are unranked. The teams also remained No. 4 and No. 13, respectively, in the West region rankings.

With their No. 16 national ranking, the women extended their current streak to 81 weeks in a row that they have appeared in the poll, dating back to a No. 15 ranking on Oct. 12, 1998.

The men's race will feature seven nationally ranked teams while the women's run will include four nationally ranked teams and four others that received votes in the latest poll. The men's race features No. 1 Oregon, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Portland, No. 19 Cal Poly, No. 20 California, No. 23 Washington and No. 26 UCLA while the women will see No. 1 Washington, No. 2 Oregon, No. 11 Stanford and No. 16 ASU, along with the four teams that are receiving votes: Washington State, UC Riverside, Oregon State and Arizona.

The women placed third and the men sixth at the 2007 NCAA West Region Championships that were held at Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore., last year. The women placed their Top 4 runners in the Top 25 to garner all-region accolades on their way to a team score of 106 points with Stanford (33) and Oregon (72) taking first and second, respectively. The Sun Devil men scored 141 points to finish sixth with Oregon (47), Portland (76), Stanford (100), California (112) and Cal Poly (116) finishing ahead of them. ASU placed a pair of runners in the Top 25 for all-region accolades.

Five of the Sun Devils' seven runners at the regional meet last year will run again this weekend while only one man returns from last year. For the women, Jenna Kingma (8th), Ali Kielty (11th), Camille Olson (23rd), Kari Hardt (25th) and Angela Spadafino (46th) are all entered into the meet on Saturday while the only returning male runner is Ben Engelhardt (81st). Of the other six that ran for the men last year, two graduated, two are redshirting and two left the program following the season.

In the history of the NCAA West Region Championships, only one Sun Devil has won the race and that came in 2000 when Lisa Aguilera was the region champion. The former American record-holder in the 3,000m steeplechase clocked a time of 20:25.0 on the course in Fresno, Calif. to lead the team to second place and 88 points. At the time of the meet, that score was the second-best in program history behind only the 86 scored in 1999. It currently ranks sixth all-time in program history.

In the four years Louie Quintana has guided the Sun Devils at the NCAA West Region Championships, the women have finished second twice and third twice, including last year, while the men have earned a second, third, sixth and 11th-place finish in the region. His women's teams have recorded the three-best scores in program history, including 45 and 48 in 2004 and 2005, respectively, while taking runner-up honors and earning automatic berths into the NCAA Championships. The men set a program record with their 68 points in 2004 to also place second, marking the lone time the Sun Devil men have earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships.

The Sun Devils traveled to the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore., on October 31 and competed in the Pac-10 Conference Championships. Here are some news/notes from the meet:
1k - The women finished fourth (105 points), marking the first time since 1998 (4th) that team had not placed among the Top 3 at the Pac-10 meet
2k - The men (198 points) saw a streak of Top 5 finishes come to an end with their eighth-place showing, the first time they were not in the Top 5 since 1997 (8th as well)
3k - Kari Hardt and Ali Kielty placed ninth and 10th, respectively, to lead the women as both earned All-Pac-10 Second Team honors
4k - Patrick Milloy was the top male finisher for the men, placing 28th overall in the race
5k - Washington's women swept the Top 6 places to win the team title with 15 points
6k - Oregon won the men's race with 28 points

So far this season, a member of the Arizona State program has won six races with four of those being won by a Sun Devil that was competing unattached from the team. On the women's side, true freshman Kate Lydy has won the Joe Uff/ASU Invitational and the Mesa Thunderbird Invitational while competing unattached from ASU after finishing 15th at the Dave Murray Invitational, her first race of the year. Ali Kielty opened the winning for ASU by taking the Dave Murray meet title in Tucson before Kari Hardt captured the Roy Griak Invitational after taking second at the Murray. On the men's side, Brandon Bethke, who is running unattached from ASU this season, has won the only two races he has run, the Dave Murray and the Mesa Thunderbird.

By capturing the 23rd Joe Uff/ASU Invitational (October 3), Kate Lydy continued a streak of three weeks in a row with a member of the Sun Devil women's program winning her first collegiate race. Lydy, who won the event in 18:20.3 two weeks before winning the Mesa Thunderbird Invitational in 18:11.0, followed Ali Kielty and Kari Hardt as first time collegiate winners. Kielty won the Dave Murray Invitational (September 19) before the team traveled to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational, which Hardt won on September 27.

While the Sun Devils have four women and two men on the roster this season that have earned collegiate All-America honors, only the women have accumulated the national accolade on the cross country course. Last year, both Jenna Kingma and Ali Kielty earned All-America honors in cross country -- their first in the sport -- by finishing 37th and 42nd, respectively. The team's leaders from last year will be joined this year by a pair of senior transfers with cross country All-America honors, including Sunni Olding (2004 and 2005 at Notre Dame) and Haley Paul (2005 at Washington State).

By earning a berth into the NCAA Championships as an at-large selection in 2007, the Sun Devil women extended their current streak to 10 years in a row at the national meet, keeping them tied with North Carolina for the sixth-longest active streak in the nation. BYU and Providence lead the way with 19 years in a row and are followed by Colorado (16), Stanford (15) and NC State (13).

On the track in 2008, the Sun Devil men's distance corps saw three of its runners earn All-America honors and capture two national titles. Kyle Alcorn, who recently graduated, won the 3,000m run at the indoor championships after entering the meet ranked 14th overall before heading outdoors to win the 3,000m steeplechase crown at the NCAA meet. Alcorn joined up with fellow distance runners Nectaly Barbosa (800m) and Joey Heller (1,200m) and sprinter Justin Kremer (400m) to finish second in the nation indoors in the distance medley relay and add another eight team points. In the end, those points in the 3,000m and DMR proved very needed as the Sun Devil men beat out Florida State by three points for the NCAA team championship, joining the women as national team champions at the same meet.

Depending upon the outcome of the regional meet, the Sun Devils would next compete at the NCAA Championships on Monday, November 24, in Terre Haute, Ind.