Cross country set to take on field in Minnesota

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The Arizona State University cross country teams will face their first early season test, Sept. 24, as they compete at the 26th Annual Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.  The women will run a 6,000-meter run while the men will take a 8,000-meter trek through the Les Bolstad Golf Course.  Always regarded as one of the most prestigious and competitive races early in the cross country season, the Griak Invite represents the true opening to the season for many Division I programs lining up their top student-athletes against top-level competition from all across the country.

Previewing the Field: Men

Fittingly, there will be 26 teams in action in the men’s DIvision I Gold race in which ASU will be a part of and a total of 278 runners are slated to line up at the start of the race, the largest field since 2006.  Portland represents the top ranked program of the bunch, sitting in 11th in this week’s U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll.  Not far behind them is N.C. State, who was ranked 11th this week and #24 Minnesota rounds out the ranked squads in the competition.  The Sun Devils received votes in this week’s poll but remain unranked.

Previewing the Field: Women

Nearly 400 women also representing 26 teams will toe the line in the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race.  Eight of the top 30 teams in the country will be in action, including No. 9 Iowa State, No. 10 Arizona and No. 11 Washington.  The Sun Devils join the Wildcats and Huskies as well as California as the Pac-12 teams in action.  Other ranked teams include No. 18 Penn State, No. 21 N.C. State, No. 25 BYU, No. 26 Michigan State and No. 30 Minnesota.  The Sun Devils enter the weekend unranked. 

Meet History: Griak Invitational

The women have enjoyed a great deal of success over the years at the Roy Griak Invitational as they have competed in the event 10 times since 1999 and won four times with five runner-up finishes and one third-place showing. The Sun Devils last won the meet in 2005 after capturing crowns in 2003, 2001 and 1999. Since ASU did not compete in the event last year, they enter this week’s race having finished second in their last three appearances (2008, 2007 and 2006).  The squad pulled in another top-10 finish last year, taking home 10th place overall.  The men also took home a 10th place finish in their last appearance at the event in 2008 and were the runners-up in 2007 - the team’s best finish at the event.

A Look Back: 2010 Roy Griak Invitational

Lindsay Prescott finished 22nd overall and her team defeated a nationally ranked foe as the Arizona State University women’s cross country team finished 10th overall at the 25th Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis, Minn., on Saturday morning. Running in the Jack Johnson Women’s Division I Gold 6,000m race, the Sun Devils scored 267 points on the day to finish 10th in the 29-team field and was just seven points from ninth place.  The men’s team did not compete in the event.

Grand Opening

The wait to witness some of ASU’s prime recruits in action will finally end this weekend with several student-athletes making their collegiate debuts.  Highly touted freshmen Shaina Corbin, Shelby Houlihan, Macy Bricks and Payton Schutte are set to open the 2011 season in Minnesota, joining fellow first-year Mackenzie Maki to make it five freshman out of 10 competitors on the women’s roster for the weekend.  On the men’s side, prep stars Domenic D'Acquisto and Heyden Wooff will toe the line in their first collegiate starts as well.  Saturday will also mark the season opener for the Sun Devils top returner on the women’s team in Lindsay Prescott.  

Last Time Out

The ASU men sent a small group of athletes down to Tucson this past weekend for the Dave Murray Invitational.  The team was paced by Matt Estlund, a redshirt sophomore, who clocked the fastest time in his career on the Dell Urich Golf Course to finish eighth overall in the men’s 4.25 mile run.  In his third appearance on the course in Tucson, Estlund clocked a time of 21:45.0 to lead the ASU squad - nearly half a minute faster than his previous best time in the event.  The men’s team finished second overall.

Playing Host

Arizona State University will host the first-ever Pac-12 Conference Championships on Oct. 29 in Litchfield Park, Ariz., at thw Wigwam Golf Resort.  With the addition of the University of Colorado and the University of Utah, the conference formally known as the Pac-10 will open its championship season with the cross country championships hosted by the Sun Devils.  More meet information can be found by clicking this link.

Statement Victory?

Redshirt junior Darius Terry opened up the 2011 campaign with a dominating performance at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, nabbing the individual title for the first time in Sun Devil history at the competition.  Clocking a time of 25:38.8 over the 8,000-meter course, Terry crossed the line about 17 seconds better than his closest competitor and keyed a dominating Sun Devil performance that saw the team capture their second title in George Kyte history.  Also notable about the win is the fact that it was the first time since 2001 that a member of the Sun Devil men’s team has won an individual title, quick the accomplishment with names like Aaron Aguayo, Kyle Alcorn and Brandon Bethke making their way through the ranks during that span.  Just a couple months removed from being the first All-American at 1,500 meters during the track and field season, Terry looks like he may be ready to make the jump into the national spotlight as the season wears on.

Flying High as a Kyte

With the Sun Devil cross country team looking to start moving back towards the top after a rebuilding 2010 campaign, the future is looking bright after the results of the George Kyte Classic. The Sun Devil men’s team captured their 16 overall team time behind Darius Terry’s individual crown while the women’s harriers nabbed a solid second-place finish without some of their top runners. 

A Reforming of the Guard

The coaching structure for the 2011 season will feature a slight shift as Louie Quintana will return for his eighth season as head coach for the Arizona State cross country program and will oversee the men’s team.  Ryan Cole, an assistant coach to Quintana for the past three seasons, will assume the role of head coach for the ASU women’s squad.  Quintana will also see over the men’s middle and long distance runners during the track and field season while Cole will be the assistant coach for the women’s middle and long distances.

Louie Louie

Coming into his eighth season as a head coach for Arizona State cross country, Louie Quintana has put together quite the program since taking over in August 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 Brandon Bethke who placed seventh nationally at the 2009 NCAA Championships. 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 3,000-meter run and the outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2008.

No Lump of Cole

Ryan Cole has built up a reputation as one of the most promising and exciting up-and-coming young coaches in the nation and being named as the head coach for the women’s cross country team for the 2011 campaign is a testament to that.  The first-year coach began working with the Arizona State program during the 2007-08 campaign and had served as an assistant ever since.  In that time, Cole worked with the ASU women’s distance teams serving under Coach Louie Quintana while also handling many of the daily administrative aspects of the Arizona State program and working with the management of home meets.  Cole has been an active recruiter during his tenure, bring in a solid class of athletes for the current season, and will be a welcomed addition to the ASU coaching staff.

Welcome to the Show

The Arizona State cross country rosters feature a total of 34 student-athletes (18 men, 16 women).  Of that total, there will be 16 new faces gracing the Sun Devil uniform.  The women’s squad features eight freshmen in Macy Bricks (Clovis, Calif.), Taylor Conway (Brookfield, Wis.), Shaina Corbin (Ashland, Ohio), Shelby Houlihan (Sioux City, Iowa), Mackenzie Maki (Wichita, Kan.), Carly Paracholski (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), Payton Schutte (Portland, Ore.) and Kayla Springford (Dracut, Mass.).  On the men’s side, another eight student-athletes will don the maroon and gold for the first time in 2011  in Garrett Baker-Slama (Phoenix, Ariz.), Andy Cannata(Redondo Beach, Calif.), Domenic D'Acquisto (Redding, Calif.), Andrew Hagler (Chandler, Ariz.), Ryan Herson (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Jesus Molina (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Daniel Wong (Tucson, Ariz.) and Heyden Wooff (Camarillo, Calif.).

Senior Leadership

With the large amount of new faces on both cross country teams this season, the seniors on both squads will provide some valuable experience to the youngsters.  That being said, both teams are still quite young across the board and the senior leadership is at a premium.  On the women’s side, just two student-athletes return in 2011 as seniors in Lindsay Prescott and Kauren Tarver.  Prescott established herself as one of the top runners in the conference last season and Tarver has been a staple on the travel team throughout most of her career at ASU.  On the men’s side, Cameron Liston, Daniel Lovell and Brianne Pierre represent the lone threesome of seniors.  Lovell has already established himself as one of the prominent distance runners in Sun Devil history and has taken on a captain’s role early in the season.

A Local Affair

One of the keys to building one of the top running programs in nation is the ability to recruit well from the areas around you.  The Sun Devil men’s team has taken the task seriously and will field seven Arizona natives on the 2011 roster, several of whom will be expected to play a large role on this year’s team.  Senior Daniel Lovell hails from Anthem, Ariz., and will be among the teams top runners this season in addition to his role as a senior on the team.  Garrett Baker-Slama (Tempe, Ariz.), Matt Boughton (Phoenix, Ariz.), Cameron Liston (Chandler, Ariz.) and Daniel Wong (Tucson, Ariz.) are some others that could play a pivotal part as the season progresses.

Top Honors

Not only is the ASU cross country team looking to get things accomplished on the athletic side of things in 2011, but they have also started to put in work in the classroom as well.  Four members of the Sun Devil women’s squad and three men will take classes as part of Barrett, The Honors College, during the 2011-12 academic calendar.  Barrett, which has been named among the top honors colleges in the nation, enrolls nearly 30 Sun Devil student-athletes in its highly selective program with almost a quarter coming from the cross country programs.  The members representing the cross country team in the honors college consist of Natasa Vulic (Jr.), Catherine Loden (Jr.), Karlee Owens (So.) and Kayla Springford (Fr.) on the women’s team and Garrett Baker-Slama (Fr.), Andrew Hagler (Fr.) and Nick Happe (Jr.) for the men.

In The Rankings

The Sun Devil men’s team opened up the 2011 season ranked No. 29 in the preseason coaches poll U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association but dropped out in the past two polls, despite winning the George Kyte Classic handily.  The team is still receiving votes, however. The men finished the season unranked last year, but a strong recruiting class and the return of a solid core of runners has the team set up nicely for a climb up the rankings this season.  The women’s squad remained unranked and did not receive any votes in the poll.

2010: Season in Review – Men

Ben Engelhardt took 51st at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., narrowly missing All-American accolades in his final race as a Sun Devil.  Engelhardt paced Arizona State program throughout the season, guiding the squad to a fifth-place finish at both the NCAA West Regional Championships and the Pac-10 Conference Championships.  Engelhardt earned second-team All-Conference honors at the conference meet, placing 14th overall.  The Arizona State men won the team title at the Dave Murray Invitational in Tucson early in the season and remained consistent as the year wore on as they made a push for a bid at the NCAA Championships.

2010: Season in Review – Women

A young Arizona State women’s squad competed hard throughout the season, clocking strong team results in finishing second at both the George Kyte Invitational and the Dave Murray Invitational to start out the season.  Lindsay Prescott paced the team throughout the year, taking home a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Pre-National Meet as well as leading the Sun Devils across the line at the Pac-10 Championships and NCAA West Regional Championships.  The ASU women took home seventh at the conference championships and 13th at the regional competition.