Roy Griak Invitational awaits Sun Devil cross country

Coming off team victories at the Dave Murray Invitational, the Arizona State University cross country teams will return to the road this weekend for their first test of the season as the Sun Devils are set to compete in the 23rd Roy Griak Invitational on the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis, Minn. The meet, which is hosted by Minnesota, will feature six college races and four high school races with the Sun Devils competing in the men's 8,000m run at 12:10 p.m. (CT) and the women's 6,000m race at 12:55 p.m. (CT).<br /><br />GREAT GRIAK<br />Arizona State's women have had a large amount of success at the annual meet in Minneapolis as the Sun Devils have finished first or second in the team standings eight times, including the past seven in a row. Winners of the meet in 2005, 2003, 2001 and 1999, the women also took runner-up honors in each of the past two meets (2007, 2006) as well as in 2004 and 2002. The men recently have had some success as well, including runner-up showings in both 2007 and 2002.<br /><br />FIRST WIN<a href=""><br />Ali Kielty</a> won the first collegiate race of the career, clocking a time of 13:39.63 at the Dave Murray Invitational on September 19. The victory for Kielty made her the 16th different Sun Devil woman to win a race in program history and the first since teammate <a href="">Jenna Kingma</a> won the Murray title last year. Kielty's win also was the fifth by a Sun Devil at the annual meet in Tucson.<br /><br />SWEEP SEVEN<br />Arizona State also won both team titles at the Dave Murray Invitational last weekend, marking the first time the men and women won the same meet since they swept the 2003 ASU Invitational. The sweep of the team titles also marked the seventh time in program history that both teams won the same meet at the same time.<br /><br />TEAM TOTALS<br />The Sun Devil women captured the 26th team title in program history while the men won their 14th as both teams secured first at the Dave Murray Invitational. The win for the women was their second in a row in Tucson while the men's victory, their first in the Murray Invite, was the first for the team since winning last year's ASU Invitational.<br /><br />STRONG DEBUTS<br />While numerous newcomers to the program competed in the Dave Murray Invitational last week, many of them did not run as a member of the Sun Devil team (or unattached). One new man and two new women placed in the Top 10 of their first races as members of the ASU program, including <a href="">Bra… Bethke</a>, who won the men's race by over 20 seconds. The two women that placed in the Top 10 were both freshmen: <a href="">L… Prescott</a> was fourth and <a href="">Kaur… Tarver</a> was ninth.<br /><br />IN THE RANKINGS<br />The first rankings of the season were released by the U.S. Track &amp; Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) last week with both teams earning recognition. In the West Region, the women are fourth and the men are seventh with both regions figuring to be one of the toughest, if not the toughest, in the nation this year. Nationally, the women are ranked No. 5 while the men are receiving votes.<br /><br />TOUGH CONFERENCE<br />Looking at the national rankings, both Sun Devil squads are the fourth-highest ranked Pac-10 team in the nation, including the women at No. 5 in the national poll. The Sun Devil women will have to contend with No. 1 Oregon, No. 3 Washington and No. 4 Stanford throughout the season as those are the only four teams from the Pac-10 ranked right now. On the men's side, No. 1 Oregon, No. 11 Stanford and No. 19 California are in the Top 30 with Arizona State (16 votes) and UCLA (eight) receiving votes this week.<br /><br />HIGHLY TOUTED<br />With their No. 5 national ranking, the women extended their current streak to 74 weeks in a row that they have appeared in the poll, dating back to a No. 15 ranking on October 12, 1998. Since that ranking, the Sun Devils have spent 74 weeks in the Top 30 and, including this week, 19 different weeks in the national Top 5 and their 10th week in a row in the Top 10. The last time ASU was a member of the Top 5 was a four-week stretch last year (Oct. 15-Nov. 5) while this year's ranking is the highest preseason position the team has held, surpassing the No. 7 ranking ASU entered with in the 2007 season.<br /><br />LAST YEAR: ROY GRIAK INVITATIONAL<br />At the 22nd Roy Griak Invitational, the Sun Devils finished second in both team races, falling three points short in the women's race and four short in the men's. <a href="">Kari Hardt</a> (21:21) and <a href="">Jenna Kingma</a> (21:28) led the charge for the women with their fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively, as the No. 6 Sun Devils scored 100 points, three behind host and No. 8 Minnesota's 97. On the men's side, <a href="">Kyle Alcorn</a> led the way with his fifth-place finish (24:38) to help the unranked men's team score 88 points while No. 19 Northern Arizona won with 84 points.<br /><br />NAME CHANGE<br />For the past 22 years, the home meet for the Sun Devils has been the ASU Invitational. Starting this fall, it will now be the Joe Uff/ASU Invitational. Uff, a former distance runner for the Sun Devils (1998-00) and ASU graduate, lost a four-year battle with cancer on April 12, the same day as his 31st birthday. The Aston, Pa., native began his own business as a thriving entrepreneur and continued to fight the disease with the help of his teammates. At the 2006 ASU Invitational, numerous alumni ran in the meet, sporting white shirts adorned with the words, &quot;UFF IS TOUGH&quot;, the battle-cry that also inspired the Uff is Tough 5k run in his hometown to help raise funds for his treatment.<br /><br />PAC-10 CHANGE<br />The Pac-10 Championships, scheduled for November 1 at the Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ore., have been moved ahead one day to October 31 to avoid a conflict with the Oregon School Activities Association's High School Cross Country Championships that are scheduled for November 1 in Eugene. The women will open the Pac-10 meet with their 6,000m run at 2:15 p.m. with the men's 10,000m run starting at 3:15 p.m.<br /><br />RETURNING ALL-AMERICANS<br />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 <a href="">Jenna Kingma</a> and <a href="">Ali Kielty</a> 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 <a href="">Sunni Olding</a> (2004 and 2005 at Notre Dame) and <a href="">Haley Paul</a> (2005 at Washington State).<br /><br />HELLO! MY NAME IS...<br />This season, 17 women and 12 men will be joining the Sun Devil roster for the first time in their careers, including 15 true freshmen (10 women and five men). The women also add six transfers this season, including <a href="">… Greenwald</a> (Pima CC), <a href="">Che… McNair</a><a href="">Sunni Olding</a> (Notre Dame), <a href="">Haley Paul</a> (Washington State), <a href="">Nico… Pennes</a> (UCLA) and <a href="">Bria… Smith</a><a href="">Bra… Bethke</a><a href="">Step… Olsen</a> (Spokane CC) and <a href="">Noah Shannon</a> (Wisconsin). (Cal State Stanislaus), (Moorpark JC), while the men add three: (Wisconsin),<br /><br />STREAK EXTENDED<br />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).<br /><br />LOOKING FOR THE THIRD<br />The Sun Devil women will look for history this year as they will try to capture their first national title. If they can do so, they will not only join an exclusive list of cross country championship programs, they also will put Arizona State in elite company with Texas as the only women's program to win at least one NCAA title in cross country, indoor track &amp; field and outdoor track &amp; field. LSU and Oregon are the only other two women's programs to have won a national title in two different events and need a crown in cross country and indoor track &amp; field, respectively, to join Texas. The Sun Devil women have won the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Indoor and 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships in recent years.<br /><br />BEEN THERE BEFORE<br />Of the 14 runners that competed in the NCAA Championships last November for the Sun Devils (seven men and seven women), nine return to the program this season, including six of the women that ran to a fourth-place team finish in 2007. The women return their Top 6 from the national meet last year, including <a href="">Jenna Kingma</a> (37th), <a href="">Ali Kielty</a> (42nd), <a href="">Kari Hardt</a> (50th), <a href="">Cami… Olson</a> (51st), <a href="">Kryst… Duke</a> (155th) and <a href="">A… Spadafino</a> (180th). The men return their first, third and fourth finishers from the NCAA meet, including <a href="">Jeff Helmer</a> (91st), <a href="">Ben Engelhardt</a> (163rd) and <a href="">A… Contreras</a> (186th).<br /><br />DISTANCE STARS<br />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. <a href="">Kyle Alcorn</a>, 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 <a href="">Ne… Barbosa</a> (800m) and <a href="">Joey Heller</a> (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.<br /><br />NEXT TIME OUT<br />Arizona State will play host to its lone home meet of the season next weekend as the 23rd Joe Uff/ASU Invitational will be held on Friday (October 3) at Kiwanis Park in Tempe. The men's 8,000m run will lead off the meet at 5:00 p.m. while the women's 5,000m run will conclude the meet with a 5:30 p.m. start time.</p>