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Sun Devil harriers play host to Lone Home Meet of '08

September 30, 2008

For the 23rd year in a row, the Arizona State University cross country program will play host to a home meet as several Arizona schools will venture to Tempe Kiwanis Park on Friday for the Joe Uff/ASU Invitational. The men's 8,000m race leads off the day at 5 p.m. while the women's 5,000m run follows at 5:30 p.m.

Tempe Kiwanis Park is located just west of the Mill Avenue & Baseline Road intersection with plenty of parking. Coming from the campus area, fans can proceed down Mill before turning right onto Baseline and then turning left into the park. From that lot, the start line will be at the same entrance on Baseline Road while following the right edge of the lake will lead fans to the finish line.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 schools have registered to compete at the meet on Friday, including seven schools from the Grand Canyon State. Competing along with the Sun Devils will be runners from Arizona, Cal State East Bay, Dine College, Glendale CC, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, Phoenix College, Pima CC and Scottsdale CC. Both teams that won the ASU Invitational last year will be on hand to defend their titles this year, including the ASU men and the Arizona women.

The 23rd edition of the ASU Invitational will mark the seventh year in a row the meet has been held at Kiwanis Park in Tempe after holding the meet at Freestone Park in Gilbert (1997-01). Other venues have included Karsten Golf Course on the ASU campus (1989-96), the Pointe at South Mountain in Phoenix (1987-88) and Red Mountain Ranch in Mesa (1986). In the previous 22 years of the meet, the Sun Devil men and women have each won the title three times with the women last winning in 2003 and the men last year.

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, "UFF IS TOUGH", the battle-cry that also inspired the Uff is Tough 5k run in his hometown to help raise funds for his treatment.

• The women scored 46 points to finish second among the 23 teams in the field
• The women finished as runners-up for the third year in a row and fifth time in eight years
Kari Hardt won the women's 6,000m race in 21:18.4 for her first collegiate victory
• Hardt is only the second ASU woman to win the Griak meet (Amy Hastings, 2005)
• The men scored 268 points to finish 10th among the 25 teams in the meet
Patrick Milloy was the top men's finisher, placing 30th in 25:07.2

For the third year in a row, the Sun Devil women finished second in the Roy Griak Invitational with Minnesota winning each of the last two meets. The women have now placed among the Top 2 at the meet in each of the past eight years in a row, including wins in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005.

For the second meet in a row, a Sun Devil woman won her first collegiate cross country race with Kari Hardt earning the distinction September 27 at the Roy Griak Invitational. Hardt clocked in at 21:18.4 to capture her first title and lead the Sun Devils to a second place finish in the team standings. One week earlier (September 19), Ali Kielty won the Dave Murray Invitational in 13:39.63 for her first victory.

With their victories, Ali Kielty and Kari Hardt became the 16th and 17th Sun Devil women, respectively, to win a cross country race in program history. Their wins also mark the eighth time in program history that two or more Sun Devils have won a race in a season and the first since four different runners won five total races during the 2005 season.

On September 30, the U.S. Track & Field, Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released the rankings for week 1 (preseason was released September 15) with the Sun Devil women slipping two spots to No. 7 this week while the men did not receive a vote in the national poll. In the region rankings, the women remained No. 4 in the west while the men slipped three spots to No. 10.

With their No. 7 national ranking, the women extended their current streak to 75 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 75 weeks in the Top 30 and their 11th week in a row in the Top 10. The last time ASU was a member of the Top 5 was last week when they were No. 5. That ranking marked the 19th time the women have been ranked among the Top 5 nationally in program history.

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.

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).

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 Rebecca Greenwald (Pima CC), Cherise McNairSunni Olding (Notre Dame), Haley Paul (Washington State), Nicole Pennes (UCLA) and Brianna SmithBrandon BethkeStephen Olsen (Spokane CC) and Noah Shannon (Wisconsin). (Cal State Stanislaus), (Moorpark JC), while the men add three: (Wisconsin),

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).

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 & field and outdoor track & 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 & 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.

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 Jenna Kingma (37th), Ali Kielty (42nd), Kari Hardt (50th), Camille Olson (51st), Krystal Duke (155th) and Angela Spadafino (180th). The men return their first, third and fourth finishers from the NCAA meet, including Jeff Helmer (91st), Ben Engelhardt (163rd) and Alonso Contreras (186th).

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.

Following a weekend off from competition, the Sun Devils will return to action on October 17 and 18 with a pair of meets. Many members of the team will remain in the Valley of the Sun to compete in the Mesa Thunderbird Invitational at Riverview Park in Mesa on October 17 while the top runners will travel to Terre Haute, Ind., on October 18 for the NCAA Pre-National Meet on the same course the NCAA Championships will be held on in November.