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Sun Devils head to NCAA pre-national meet

October 14, 2010

Sun Devil Meet Notes (pdf)

The final race of the “regular season” awaits the Arizona State University cross country team this weekend as the Sun Devils travel to the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday for the 2010 NCAA Pre-National Meet. Both Sun Devil squads will compete in the “white” race in what is the final meet of the year before the championship season gets underway in two weeks (Pac-10 meet). The women’s 6,000m ‘white’ race is set to start at 11:35 a.m. ET while the men’s 8,000m ‘white’ race will start at 12:50 p.m. ET.

In the Rankings
In the latest U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rankings, the Sun Devils are receiving votes in both polls, but not enough to secure a spot among the Top 30. In the regional polls, the men are No. 6 in the west while the women remained No. 5.

Meet Info: NCAA Pre-Nationals
The NCAA Pre-National Meet gives the competing teams a chance to run a race on the same course that will be used just over one month later for the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships. The event includes six races, including the ‘white’, ‘blue’ and ‘open’ races for both the men and the women. Overall, there are 79 women’s teams and 71 men’s teams entered into the meet with the ASU women running as one 40 teams in the ‘white’ race and the men as one of 36 teams in the ‘white’ race.

In the Field: Pre-Nationals Women
In the women’s white race, there are 40 teams set to compete with eight currently ranked in the USTFCCCA Top 30 and three others receiving votes. Arizona State, along with Harvard and Toledo, are receiving votes this week with nationally ranked teams in the white race including Georgetown (5), Colorado (9), Stony Brook (12), Stanford (17), Michigan (19), NC State (23), Minnesota (26) and Florida (27). ASU and Stanford are one of three Pac-10 teams in the race with the third being Washington State.

In the Field: Pre-Nationals Men
In the men’s white race, 36 teams will compete with 10 currently being ranked in the USTFCCCA Top 30 and three others receiving votes, including Arizona State, Iowa State and Providence. The ranked teams include Colorado (4), Portland (8), NC State (13), Oklahoma (16), BYU (19), Tulsa (21), Georgetown (22), Alabama (24), Minnesota (25) and Notre Dame (28). ASU and Washington State are the lone Pac-10 teams in the race.

Meet History: NCAA Pre-Nationals
The Sun Devils are making their 12th appearance in the Pre-National competition dating back to 1998. In that time, the Arizona State has not won the team nor individual title, but have come close in both. On the women’s side, the Sun Devils placed second as a team in 2005 with 96 points, a few weeks before returning to Terre Haute to place fourth in the NCAA and earn the program’s first trophy (Top 4). Individually, both Amy Hastings in 2004 and Lisa Aguilera in 2001 hold the best finish at the meet in program history as both women finished third in their respective races. On the men’s side, the 2004 squad scored 179 points and placed fourth overall for ASU’s best team finish while the top individual showing came in 2001 when Fasil Bizuneh took fifth place in the men’s 8,000m run.

Meet Recap: 2009 Pre-Nationals
The 2009 NCAA Pre-National Meet saw the men finish sixth in the white race and the women 10th in the white race with a pair of Top 12 individual finishers pacing the team. In the men’s race, Arizona State scored 232 points, which stands as the third-best total in the event in program history. Brandon Bethke led the way as he finished sixth overall, which is the second-best finish in program history in the meet. Ben Engelhardt (26th) and Jeff Helmer (45th) also posted solid times to not only help the team’s score, but also record the 11th and 20th-best finishes at the meet in program history, respectively. In the women’s race, ASU scored 325 points to finish 10th overall with Kari Hardt leading the way as she finished 11th overall. Hardt’s finish ranks in a tie for the eighth-best all-time in program history at the meet.

Second of Two...or Three?
The NCAA Pre-National Meet is the second of two (Notre Dame Invitational was the first) -- and perhaps three -- meets the Sun Devil men will run in the Hoosier State. Following this week’s event, the Sun Devils will begin the championship season which culminates with the NCAA Championships on Monday, November 22, also in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of this week’s run.

Looking to Break through
When Anna Sperry won the Dave Murray Invitational last year, she captured the 30th individual title in women’s program history and gave the women at least one race victory in each of the last three seasons six in the last seven. While the women have had individual success, the men are looking to break a drought that has lasted since the 2001 season when Juan Reyes won the UC Irvine-Asics Invitational. In the time between now and Reyes’ victory, the women have captured 13 race titles.

Heading into the 2010 season, there are 44 student-athletes on the Sun Devil rosters, including 22 women and 22 men. Of those 44 runners, 17 are new to the team this season, including seven women and 10 men. The women’s newcomers include transfers Alyssa Allison (Arkansas), Eliza Gawryluk (Northern Arizona) and Hailey Hanna (Mesa CC) and freshmen Nathalie Anaya (Windermere, Fla.), Christina Price (Tucson, Ariz.), Jade Riley (Glendale, Ariz.) and Kailey Rumbo (Phoenix, Ariz.). On the men’s side, the 10 newcomers are comprised of three transfers in Michael Rodriguez (ASU’s club team), Darius Terry (Northern Arizona) and Brian Yates (Queens Univ. of Charlotte) and freshmen Garrett Baker-Slama (Tempe), Andy Cannata (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Jared Gonzales (Chandler, Ariz.), Andrew Hagler (Chandler, Ariz.), Jesus Molina (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Sean Newport (Tempe, Ariz.) and Jesus Rivera (Sedona, Ariz.).

The additions of Jade Riley and Kailey Rumbo to the Sun Devil roster this season not only gives Arizona State a pair of successful runners, but also reunites them with a pair of teammates from their days at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Camille Olson and Lindsay Prescott. The last time the four women competed on the same cross country team came in 2006 when they captured the Arizona 5A-II state title with 28 points, nearly 60 points clear of runner-up Marana Mountain View (87 points). In that state championship race, Prescott won the individual crown with Olson taking second, Riley finishing fourth and Rumbo taking 15th.

Reunited Too
Like the women, the men’s roster has some similar schools appearing, including a pair of high school teammates and a pair of teammates from another university. Last year, Cameron Liston joined the Sun Devils after running for Northern Arizona University and, this year, he is joined on the roster by Darius Terry, who also competed NAU. A pair of freshmen also are continuing their competitive careers together as both Jared Gonzales and Andrew Hagler both join the squad after running together at Chandler High School.

With Hard Work
One of the new additions to the program this fall is Michael Rodriguez, who debuts for the Sun Devils as a fifth-year senior. In the past four years, Rodriguez continued to train toward his goal of making the Sun Devil squad by running with the Arizona State club team and even competed in several cross country and track & field events that the Sun Devils hosted during that time. The State Press recently wrote a feature on Rodriguez (, which ran on September 15.

Welcome Back
Twenty-seven student-athletes return to the roster this year, including five seniors: Cherise McNair, Brianna Smith and Anna Sperry for the women and men’s runners Ben Engelhardt and Zeke Van Patten. Six returners are juniors with three women in Camille Olson, Lindsay Prescott and Kauren Tarver and men Dylan Hatcher, Cameron Liston and Daniel Lovell. The returning sophomores include women Courtney Golden, Catherine Loden, Kate Lydy, Stephanie Mundt, Natasa Vulic and Ashley Wimmer and men Matt Boughton, Nick Happe, Ben Jankunas, Mason McHenry and Doug Smith. The Sun Devils that were with the program last year and redshirted include women Karlee Owens, Natalie Todd and Liz Zuniga and men Matt Estlund and Steven Schnieders.

Youthful Roster
Of those 44 student-athletes on the roster this fall, only six are listed as senior (three men and three women) with only eight more runners (five women, three men) listed as juniors, giving Arizona State 30 freshmen and sophomores. The freshmen include nine true-freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen.

Take me to Your Leader
Louie Quintana returns for his seventh year as the head coach of the Sun Devil cross country program, a program in which he took over on August 18, 2004. During his six years leading the distance group, Quintana has worked with seven individuals that earned 10 total All-America honors in cross country, including the program’s only three-time honoree Amy Hastings and, most recently, Brandon Bethke, who placed seventh nationally at the 2009 NCAA meet. On the track, his athletes have been instrumental in helping the Sun Devils capture four national titles and three Pac-10 crowns. He has worked with three individuals that have collected four NCAA titles, including Kyle Alcorn, who won the indoor 3,000m run and the outdoor 3,000m steeplechase in 2008.

Lucky 13
Heading into the season, the women’s program will look to continue it’s recent streak of success as the Sun Devils have advanced to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in each of the past 12 season, the third-longest active streak in the nation and the eighth-best all-time. Prior to making the field of 31 in 1998, the women had never competed as a team in the national event.

Turn Two
While the women have built an impressive streak of advancement to the NCAA meet, the men have competed in the event just six times overall, including last season, in which it placed 19th. By making the field of 31 this year, the men would advance to the national championships for the second year in a row, a feat that has happened only one other time when ASU was eighth in 2004 and 17th in 2005. The other national appearances the men made came in 1999, 2001 and 2007.

Next Time Out
The Sun Devils will take a week off from competition before jumping into the championship portion of their schedule on October 30 as they travel to Seattle, Wash., for the 2010 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships. The final Pac-10 cross country meet (the conference expands to the Pac-12 next year) will feature the 25th running of the women’s 6,000m championship at 10 a.m. and the 73rd running of the men’s 8,000m championship at 11 a.m.