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Cross Country Faces Test At Pre-National Invitational
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 10/12/1999
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Oct. 12, 1999

Saturday, Oct. 16
Pre-National Invitational, Bloomington, Ind.
Men's "A" Race: 8:00 a.m. (PT), 8K
Women's "A" Race: 9:15 a.m. (PT), 5K

This Week:
Arizona State travels to Bloomington, Ind., for the Pre-National Invitational this Saturday, Oct. 16. The Indiana University cross country course, site of this year's NCAA Championships, plays host to the meet that will feature 16 of the top 25 women's teams and 14 of the top 25 men's teams. The men's "A" race will begin at 8 a.m. PT (10:00 a.m. in Indiana) and the women's "A" race is slated for 9:15 a.m. PT (11:15 a.m. IT). As usual, the men's course is 8,000 meters long and the women's 5,000 meters.

The Field:
As the name indicates, the Pre-National Invitational is designed as a preview of the NCAA Championships and the field reflects that. The ranked squads at that meet for the women include: No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 BYU, No. 4 ASU, No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Colorado, No. 8 Kansas State, No. 9 Villanova, No. 12 Notre Dame, No. 13 Minnesota, No. 14 Missouri, No. 15 Arizona, No. 16 North Carolina, No. 18 William & Mary, No. 22 UCLA and No. 23 Northern Arizona. On the men's side, the ranked participants are No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Colorado, No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 BYU, No. 9 Northern Arizona, No. 10 Oregon, No. 12 Georgetown, No. 13 Weber State, No. 17 Notre Dame, No. 18 Dartmouth, No. 19 ASU, No. 20 Utah and No. 22 Iona.

Sun Devils Ranked:
Arizona State's women are ranked fourth in the latest FinishLynx national rankings. They have been ranked as high as third in 1999. ASU's men are at No. 19 in the latest MONDO national rankings after sitting at No. 17 in the last two polls. It is the first year in ASU history that its men's team is ranked. ASU's women were ranked for the first time ever last year.

Last Time Out:
Running only its reserves as the starters rested for this week's meet, Arizona State's men finished fifth and the women fourth at the ASU Invitational in Gilbert, Ariz. Individually, ASU was led by Jeremy Rasmussen's 16th-place finish and Nicole Simmons 19th-place finish.

Double "W":
Arizona State's women's team opened the season with two consecutive team victories at the UC Irvine Invitational and Roy Griak Invitational. The last time ASU's women won in back-to-back outings came in the 1993 season when the Sun Devils captured the Grand Canyon Invitational and UNLV Invitational.

Improvement:
If ASU's first meet is any indication, one year can make a big difference. Running the same course that it began the 1998 season on, ASU's times dramatically improved almost across the board. As a team ASU's point totals improved from 103 to 62 (-51) on the men's side and from 133 to 22 (-111) for the women. Here's a look at ASU's runners who took part in both meets:

Women1998 Time/Place1999 Time/PlaceDifferenceMen1998 Time/Place1999 Time/PlaceDifference
Lisa Aguilera19:03/2617:34/21:29/24Joe Agostinelli26:38/4826:59/59+0:21/+11
Kelly MacDonald19:09/2917:47/31:22/26Kris Alexander26:18/4125:08/141:10/27
Amy Maciasek19:23/3818:20/91:03/29Fasil Bizuneh25:31/1824:47/50:48/13
Cody Sohn19:10/3018:27/120:43/18David Burke26:09/3426:03/350:06/+1
Juan Chavira25:03/725:34/25+0:31/+18
Isaiah Festa26:02/3024:49/61:13/24
Charles Sharpe28:46/9727:43/741:03/23

Head Coach Walt Drenth:
Walt Drenth, in his fourth year as Head Cross Country Coach at Arizona State University, has taken the Sun Devils to unprecedented heights. ASU's appearance at the 1998 Women's NCAA Championships (finished 23rd) was the first in school history after the Sun Devil women matched their best-ever finish at the Pac-10 meet (4th) and recorded their best regional finish (sixth) since 1986. ASU's men, running with five freshmen and two sophomores, registered their best season of the decade in 1998 as the Sun Devils finished fourth at the Pac-10s (best men's finish ever) and eighth at regionals (best finish since 1986). Drenth came to Tempe after spending the previous six years (1990-95) at the College of William & Mary and six years at Central Michigan (1985-90). He is a seven-time conference coach of the year and two-time District Coach of the Year and has led four squads to the NCAA Championships.

Up Next:
ASU takes a week off before the Pac-10 Championships, held in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 30.

A Look Back:
The 1998 season ranks among the best in ASU cross country history and the improvements made from 1997 are astonishing. Here are some highlights:

Women
* ASU made its first NCAA Championships appearance, finishing 23rd.
* ASU was ranked for the first time in school history, climbing as high as 14th in the FinishLynx poll.
* ASU improved from last in the Pac-10 to fourth, matching its highest finish ever.
* ASU improved from 10th to sixth at the NCAA Regional Championships, its best finish since 1986.
* All of ASU's seven runners at the Pac-10 Championships finished in the top 40. In 1997, only three did.
* In 1997, ASU had one runner finish in the top 50 at NCAA Regionals. In 1998, four Sun Devils did.

Men
* ASU improved from last to fourth in the Pac-10 Championships, its best finish ever.
* ASU improved from 11th to 8th at the NCAA West Regionals, its best finish since 1986.
* ASU had three top-20 finishers (Juan Chavira, Isaiah Festa, Fasil Bizuneh) at the Pac-10 Championships in 1998 compared to none in 1997.
* ASU had top-20 finishes from two runners (Chavira, Bizuneh) at the 1998 NCAA West Regionals , the first time since 1991 that ASU had any top-20 regional performances.
* ASU's Fasil Bizuneh and Isaiah Festa were the top two American finishers at the 1999 World Jr. Championships.

Quick Outlook:
ASU returned six of its seven competitors at last year's Women's NCAA Championships, ASU's first-ever appearance at nationals. The Sun Devils lost All-American Priscilla Hein, but junior Mary Duerbeck returned to the squad after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Virtually the entire ASU men's squad returned after five freshmen and two sophomores led the Sun Devils to a fourth-place Pac-10 finish in 1998, ASU's best finish ever. In addition, Garret Jensen, a senior transfer from Dartmouth, has added experience.

Remeaining Schedule:
Here's a look at what is left for ASU cross country in 1999:

DateEventLocation
Sat. Oct. 30Pac-10 ChampionshipsLos Angeles, Calif.
Sat. Nov. 13NCAA West RegionalsPortland, Ore.
Mon. Nov. 22NCAA ChampionshipsBloomington Ind.

International Experience:
During the spring of 1999, Arizona State's Isaiah Festa and Fasil Bizuneh were the top two American finishers at the 1999 IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships, held Sunday, March 28, in Belfast. Bizuneh finished 25th overall (28:02) and Festa 30th (28:13), as the U.S. squad finished sixth. Festa and Bizuneh finished third and fourth, respectively, at the National Championships, held Feb. 14 in Tacoma, Wash. The pair redshirted the 1999 outdoor track season as did fellow classmates Juan Chavira, Kris Alexander and Ron Buchanan. Those five were considered the best distance recruiting class in the nation in 1998.

Women's Probable Lineups

NameHometown (Last School)Notes
Lisa Aguilera, So.Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial)ASU's top runner in 1999 with two 2nd-place finishes
Colleen Burke, Jr.Phoenix, Ariz. (Phoenix CC)JC transfer who finished 4th in first Division I race
Mary Duerbeck, Jr.Chamois, Mo. (Osage)ASU's top runner in 1997, returns after missing a season with foot injury
Kelly MacDonald, Jr.Tualatin, Ore. (Tualitin)Top 20 finisher at Pac-10s (15th) and Regionals (20th) last year
Amy Maciasek, Jr.Arden Hills, Minn. (Mounds View)Improved 53 places in "98 Regional, running a PR of 18:23
Kristin McFerron, So.St Charles, Mo. (St. Charles)Ran a season-best 18:30 at Regionals last year
Nicole Simmons, Jr.Glendale Ariz. (Park College)Season-best 18:26 at Regionals to finish 53rd, finished 39th at Pac-10s
Cody Sohn, So.Carmel, Ind. (Carmel)Ran an 18:27 and 18:42 at first two meets
Brianna Torres, So.Peoria, Ariz. (Paradise Valley CC)Improved from seventh-best Sun Devil at first meet to fifth-best at Griak

Men's Probable Lineups

NameHometown (Last School)Notes
Fasil Bizuneh, So.Indianapolis, Ind. (Ben Davis)ASU's top runner in 1999 with a fifth and 11th-place finish
David Burke, Jr.San Diego, Calif. (Torrey Pines)Finished 18th at last week's ASU Invitational
Juan Chavira, So.Hanford, Calif. (Hanford)ASU's top runner in 1998 with three Top 10 and five Top 20 finishes
Isaiah Festa, So.Morro Bay, Calif. (Morro Bay)With Bizuneh, USA's top 2 finishers at 1999 Junior World Championships
Garret Jensen, Sr.Fullerton, Calif. (Dartmouth)Transfer from Dartmouth provides experience for Sun Devils
Jeremy Rasmussen, Fr.Glendale, Ariz. (Mountain Ridge)ASU's top finisher at its home meet last week
Brandon Strong, Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Paradise Valley)Ran 25:33, ASU's second-best effort, at Griak Invitational
Arizona State Sun Devils Cross Country
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