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Sun Devil cross country heads to Tucson

September 16, 2009

Sun Devil Meet Notes (pdf)

The Arizona State University cross country team returns to action on Friday afternoon in Tucson as the Sun Devils will travel to the Dell Urich Golf Course for the Dave Murray Invitational. The meet, hosted by Arizona, is the second of the season for the Sun Devils and their first since the season-opening George Kyte Invitational on September 5 in Flagstaff. In Tucson, the women will compete in a 5,000m run starting at 5 p.m. while the men will run at 5:45 p.m. in a 7,000m race.

Although a complete list of teams is currently unavailable, some teams that have been confirmed include a trio of Pac-10 schools in Arizona State, host Arizona and UCLA. Several of the state's community colleges -- including Mesa, Paradise Valley and Pima -- will be on hand to compete as well.

The U.S. Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released its first set of national rankings for the 2009 season and both Sun Devil squads will compete this weekend as members of the national Top 30. The women, who have competed in 11-consecutive NCAA Championships, enter the season ranked No. 11 and are fourth in the west region while the men, who are looking to make the national meet for the first time since 2007, are ranked 29th nationally and fifth in the west region.

In a little under one month (October 2), the Sun Devil program will be playing host to its annual ASU Invitational with this year's meet being a part of the Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa. The Friday night meet, which will be held under the lights, will have two collegiate races, seven high school races and the newly former Desert Twilight Community 5k Run. Runners of all ages and experience levels are welcome and encouraged to compete in the community run, which will start at 7:05 p.m. that night. For more information and to register, visit (search: Desert Twilight) or click on the DTXCF banner on the cross country page at

Redshirt freshman Natasa Vulic led the women and junior Collin Eckelman led the men as the Sun Devils opened their season with fourth and third-place team finishes, respectively, at the George Kyte Invitational in Flagstaff on September 5. Vulic ran the 5,000m course in 18:11.8 to place sixth overall while Maureen Stringham was right behind her in seventh at 18:12.7. Eckelman set the pace in the men's 8,000m run as he took 11th overall in 26:18.7 while Matt Boughton was 19th in 26:50.2. Host Northern Arizona swept the team titles.

The Sun Devils swept the team titles at the Dave Murray Invitational on September 20, 2008, in Tucson as the women scored 28 points and the men 27 to win their second and first team titles, respectively, at the meet. Ali Kielty won the race in 13:39.6 to keep the title with ASU after Jenna Kingma won the meet one year earlier. The men were led by Noah Shannon's fourth-place finish (18:59.9) while Brandon Bethke, who was redshirting for ASU, won the individual title in 18:29.30.

ASU has had great success in recent years at the Dave Murray Invitational with three team titles won in the past two seasons and six individual crowns secured as well. The women have won the past two meets, scoring 22 points in 2007 and 28 points in 2008 to mark the fourth and eighth-best all-time scores in program history, respectively. Ali Kielty won the race in 2008 after Jenna Kingma took the title in 2007. Brooke Bennett won in 2005 to give the women three titles in a row at the meet after Amy Hastings took the crowns at the 2003 and 2004 meets. On the men's side, the 2008 title was the first for the Sun Devils in Tucson while their 27 points scored ranks as the seventh-best score in program history. Brandon Bethke, while redshirting, won the race in 2008 and is back in 2009 to look for the repeat.

While the first meet of the season saw just five women and six men travel north to Flagstaff and compete, this week's meet in Tucson will see nearly the entire roster in action as many will represent the program in ASU uniforms while those that are redshirting this season will compete unattached to the program.

The women's 2009 roster includes 25 student-athletes with 19 of those runners returning to the program from last year. Of those 19, six are seniors, four are juniors, three are sophomores and six are back after redshirting their rookie seasons. The seniors have been a part of two NCAA four-place finishes in their careers (2005, 2007) and also helped the women's track & field program to a trio of NCAA titles. The 2009 senior class includes: Chelsea Caloia (Phoenix), Krystal Duke (Clovis, Calif.), Rebecca Greenwald (State College, Pa.), Kari Hardt (Queen Creek, Ariz.), Ali KieltyAngela Spadafino (Torrance, Calif.). (Torrance, Calif.) and

The men's team, in contrast to the women, are young as 12 of their 17 runners are returning from last season with only one senior and four returning juniors. ASU also has four sophomores and three redshirt freshmen in the mix this season with their four true freshmen and one junior transfer. Brandon Bethke (Lake Forest, Calif.), who competed in outdoor track for the Sun Devils last spring, is the lone senior on the squad this season and will be competing in cross country for ASU for the first time after sitting out last fall following his transfer from Wisconsin. The returning juniors included Collin Eckelman (Loveland, Colo.), Ben Engelhardt (Columbus, Ohio), Jeff Helmer (Snohomish, Wash.) and Patrick Milloy (Murrieta, Calif.).

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.).

LET'S REVIEW: 2008 SEASON - WOMEN 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.

Following one week off from competition, the Sun Devils will return to action in a pair of meets on Friday, October 2, as the team's top runners will compete at the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind., while the remaining Sun Devils will take part in the ASU Invitational. The ASU meet is part of the Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival that will be held at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa, Ariz., and will be run under the lights. Fans are encouraged to not only come out and support the runners of the high school and college races, but also enter themselves into the Desert Twilight Community 5k race that will be held that night.