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Quest for national meet begins in Oregon this week

November 07, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University cross country returns to Oregon for the second meet in a row, this time setting out for Springfield, Ore., for the 2007 NCAA West Region Cross Country Championships that will take place Saturday at the Springfield Country Club. The men lead off the day with the 10,000m race at 11 a.m. PT (noon Arizona) and the women close out the day with the 6,000m race at 12:15 p.m. PT.

The regional meet is opening round of the NCAA Championships and is used as the selection tool for the national meet that will be held Monday, November 19, in Terre Haute, Ind. The Top 2 teams from each region will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships with the national committee selecting 13 at-large teams early next week to round out the field. Along with the teams, the Top 3 runners in each regional race that are not members of the teams selected for the national meet will be invited to Terre Haute to compete individually. Also, the Top 25 finishers in each race will earn all-region accolades.

The women head into the regional meet looking to extend a streak of recent success that has seen them place among the Top 3 in the West the past three years in a row and seven of the last eight (fourth in 2003). Prior to its third place showing one year ago in Portland, the Sun Devil women had taken runner-up honors each of the previous races.

If the women are successful in their bid to qualify for the NCAA Championships, it will mark the 10th year in a row the Sun Devil women will be a part of the national event. With their selection into the 2006 event, the Sun Devil women advanced to their ninth-consecutive national meet which stands as the sixth-longest streak in the nation currently, tying them with North Carolina. BYU and Providence lead the way having made the field in 18-consecutive years while Colorado is third (15 years), Stanford is fourth (14 years) and North Carolina State is fifth (12 years) on the list.

The NCAA West Region Championships in Springfield, Ore., this weekend will mark the third time the state has hosted the event since 1999 and the first time outside of Portland. Last year, in Portland, the women placed third (72 points) and men 11th (290). Prior to that, the women placed fourth (112) and third (86) and the men eighth (189) and third (92) in 2003 and 1999, respectively, in Portland.

In the November 5 USTFCCCA National Rankings, the Sun Devils women remained at No. 5 for fourth week in a row while the men remained at No. 27 for the second week in a row. On the regional charts, both sides retained their previous rankings with the women sitting at No. 3 in the West and the men at No. 6.

Arizona State's women's team is No. 5 this week in the national rankings, marking the 45th week the Sun Devils have held a place among the Top 10 and their eighth week in a row in the Top 10. Dating back to October 12, 1998, the ASU women have been ranked in the national Top 30 for 72-consecutive weeks while ranking in the Top 20 in 68 of those weeks, including the past 26 rankings. The Sun Devils have been ranked in the Top 5 on 18 occasions with No. 3 rankings on September 27, 1999, October 7, 2003, and October 13, 2003, standing as the highest the team has been ranked.

The Arizona State men returned to the national rankings on October 2 for the first time since also being ranked No. 20 on October 10 last year. Ranked 27th for the second week in a row, the ranking marks the 54th time the Sun Devils have been ranked in the Top 30.

Roughly 30 teams are expected to compete in the women's West Region Championships, including five teams ranked among the Top 30 nationally with two more receiving votes. No. 1 Stanford leads the field and is followed by No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 7 Washington and No. 27 UC Santa Barbara. Washington State and UC Riverside are the two teams receiving votes this week.

Roughly 25 teams are slated to compete in Springfield, Ore., this weekend in the men's race with seven teams ranked among the Top 30 nationally. Host and top-ranked Oregon leads the loaded field and is followed in the rankings by No. 8 Stanford, No. 10 California, No. 20 Portland, No. 21 UCLA, No. 27 Arizona State and No. 28 Cal Poly.

The Sun Devil women tied with Washington for third place and Sun Devil men finished fifth overall at the 2007 Pac-10 Championships hosted by Oregon State at the Trysting Tree Golf Course. Jenna Kingma led the women with her fifth-place finish as the Top 4 ASU runners placed among the Top 20, including Ali Kielty in seventh, Kari Hardt in 12th and Camille Olson in 18th. On the men's side, Kyle Alcorn led the way with his 10th-place finish with Top 25 finishes posted by Jeff Helmer (15th) and Joey Heller (25th).

A pair of freshmen finished strong at the Pac-10 Championships for the Sun Devils with true freshman Camille Olson placing 18th overall in the women's race and redshirt freshman Jeff Helmer ran to a 15th-place finish in the men's race.

In late October, renovations began on Joe Selleh Track at Sun Angel Stadium with the construction of the northern 'D' zone and an expanded shot put area on the south end of the infield. This week, demolition crews were on hand to begin removing the old running surface at the home of the Sun Devils to make way for a new Mondotrack FTX surface, the first of its kind in the world. Upon its completion, the surface will once again host some of the premier talent in the nation, including the 2008 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships. Later next year, the same surface will be installed in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Sun Devil men, after a recalculation of the team scores, won the 22nd Arizona State Invitational last Friday afternoon at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, scoring 37 points with Arizona taking second with 88 points. Originally, Arizona won the race, but one of its runners was unattached and should not have figured into the scoring. Following the adjustment, the Sun Devils claimed their first team title since winning a trio of meets in 2005: the George Kyte Invitational, the ASU Invitational and Canyon West Classic (this week's meet).

Three former Sun Devil women recently competed in the TUFTS Health Place 10k for Women on October 8 in Boston, Mass., which also served as the U.S. Women's 10k National Championship. In the race, Desiree Davila placed sixth overall in 33:22 and was followed by Amy Hastings in 11th (33:54) and Alvina Begay in 34th (35:23).

At the Dave Murray Invitational (September 14), Jenna Kingma covered the 4,000m course in 13:42.52 to win the individual title and becoming the 15th different Sun Devil to win a cross country race in her career. The third Arizona State runner to win the meet behind Brooke Bennett (2005) and back-to-back winner Amy Hastings (2003, 2004), Kingma is now tied for fifth on the all-time victories list at Arizona State.

Former Sun Devil All-American Desiree Davila will once again represent the United States when she competes in the IAAF World Road Racing Championships set for October 14 in Udine, Italy. Davila, who placed 43rd overall and fourth on Team USA in last year's inaugural event in Debrecen, Hungary, will compete in the 20km event that sends five runners on the course for each represented nation with the Top 3 finishers from each team combining their times for an overall score. The U.S. women placed 10th last year.

Former Sun Devil Fasil Bizuneh competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon over the weekend with the former All-American placing 13th overall in 2:16:47.

Last year, four women and two men earned honors from the Pac-10 Conference, including Ali Kielty, who was selected as the 2007 Pac-10 Women's Newcomer of the Year. Cassie Bando and Brooke Bennett each earned First Team All-Pac-10 honors while Kielty joined Jenna Kingma as second team selections. On the men's side, Aaron Aguayo was a first team selection while Kyle Alcorn was a second team honoree.

One man and five women each garnered NCAA All-West Region honors last year as all six individuals placed among the Top 25 at the regional race in Portland, Ore. Aaron Aguayo, despite a fall in the mud with under 600 meters remaining in the race, charged hard at the finish line to place second overall in the men's race while Cassie Bando, Brooke Bennett, Kari Hardt, Ali Kielty and Jenna Kingma all finished in the Top 25 for the women.

During the 2007 track and field season, the distance corps played a role in helping the Sun Devil women capture all five team titles they competed for. During the indoor season, Amy Hastings won the 3,000m run to help the team to the MPSF Indoor Championship title, the program's first indoor team crown. Three weeks later, Hastings earned All-America honors in both the 3,000m run and 5,000m run at the NCAA Indoor Championships to help the team secure its first national title. Outdoors, the women won the Pac-10 for the second year in a row before claiming titles in the NCAA West Region and the NCAA Championships. Hastings earned All-America honors in the 10,000m run at the outdoor national meet.

The cross country season comes to a close on Monday, November 19, with the running of the 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.