Oct. 28, 2002
On The Starting Line
The championship portion of the year gets underway Saturday with the 2002 Pac-10 Championships, hosted by UCLA at the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, Calif. The women run the first race, a 6,000m circuit, beginning at 9:30 a.m. PST (10:30 a.m. Arizona time). The men close out the competition with their 8,000m race at 10:30 a.m. PST (11:30 local).
The Sun Devils remained in the national polls following the their respective eighth-place finishes at the NCAA Pre-National Meet, held Oct. 19 in Terre Haute, Ind. In the national rankings released Oct. 21 (women) and Oct. 22 (men), the women earned a ranking of 17th and are the second-highest ranked team in the conference behind No. 2 Stanford. The men fell to their lowest national ranking of the year as they came in at No. 25. Pac-10 rivals Stanford (No. 1) and Oregon (No. 5) are ahead of ASU.
About the Pac-10 Championships
Held annually, the Pac-10 Championships brings together the eight men's and nine women's teams that sponsor cross country (Oregon State and USC do not have a men's team while OSU does not sponsor a women's team) to determine both the team and individual conference champions for the men and women. After playing host to the event a year ago, the Sun Devils will travel west to Pasadena, Calif., and the Brookside Golf Course to try and improve upon their standings of a year ago. UCLA will serve as the host institution for the event this year.
The women, who placed third last year, returns one place-winner from the 2002 event in Desiree Davila (22nd). The youthful Sun Devils will rely on their young guns to makeup for the finishes the seniors posted last year. The men return four of their Top 7 from last year's race, including three of the Top 4. Fasil Bizuneh, Ronnie Buchanan and JJ Duke will try to keep ASU near the top of the standings with several newcomers lending a hand.
Looking Back: The 2001 Pac-10 Championships
ASU played host to the conference championships at the Pavilion Golf Course in Scottsdale last year with the men recording a program-best second-place finish. Led by Fasil Bizuneh's runner-up performance in the 8,000m race, the men compiled 75 points to finish behind Stanford's 28 points. Ronnie Buchanan and Juan Reyes finished in the Top 10 with eighth and ninth-place finishes, respectively, while freshman JJ Duke crossed the line in 15th to earn Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year accolades.
On the women's side, Stanford (27 points) and Arizona (64) finished ahead of ASU (79) in the team standings. Three Sun Devils finished in the Top 10, led by the seventh-place effort of Lisa Aguilera. Brianna Torres and Kelly McDonald, ninth and 10th, respectively, helped ASU to their Top 3 finish.
The Pac-10 Championships will serve as the final 'warm-up' for the Sun Devils before the postseason gets underway in two weeks. The NCAA tournament begins Nov. 16 with ASU traveling to the West Regional at Stanford. Only the Top 2 teams from each of the nine regions earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships (Nov. 25 at Terre Haute, Ind.) with the remaining teams being selected as at-large participants. Both the men and women made the national field a year ago as at-large teams.
Last Time Out: NCAA Pre-National Meet
Both the Sun Devil men and women's teams competed at the NCAA Pre-National Meet (Oct. 19) with each team finishing eighth in their respective races. The men, running in the 'blue' race, compiled 285 points with Stanford (27), Northern Arizona (92) and BYU (171) finishing first, second and third, respectively. Fasil Bizuneh was the top finisher for ASU, crossing the finish line in 13th place while teammates Aaron Aguayo (35th) and Jeremy Cramer (44th) also claiming a finish in the Top 50. Ronnie Buchanan (93rd) and Dan Maher (100th) rounded out the scoring for the Maroon and Gold.
In the women's 'white' race, Jessica Scalzo finished 17th overall to lead the Sun Devils to eight place. Stanford (57), Wake Forest (165) and North Carolina State (199) were the Top 3 team finishers. Trailing Scalzo for ASU was Amy Hastings (35th), Desiree Davila (43rd), Cynthia Atencio (75th) and Mandi Fitz-Gustafson (84th) to give the team a total of 254 points.
Newcomers to the cross country program have already made their respective marks with the Sun Devils as the season nears an end. Jessica Scalzo , a true freshman, has led the women to the finish line in all three races she has run this year. On average, true or redshirt freshman have been the Top 3 finishers for the Sun Devils in each of the five races run this year. Also making an impact have been Amy Hastings, Mandi Fitz-Gustafson and Liz Lindgren. Only one race this year, the ASU Invitational, has seen the first Sun Devil crossing the finish line not be a freshman (Lisa Pohlit).
For the men, Aaron Aguayo has filled in remarkably for an injured Juan Reyes, finishing as one of the Top 3 Sun Devils in each of the three races he has run this year, including a team-best fifth place at the adidas Invitational that opened the year. Jeremy Cramer, Griffin Lee, Derek Pisel and Ryan Warrenburg have also figured into the team finishes this year for the Sun Devils.
Fasil Bizuneh became the first male ASU cross country runner to earn All-America status twice in a career last season with a 22nd-place finish at the NCAA meet. An All-American in 1999 after finishing 19th at the meet, Bizuneh also was named to the All-Pac-10 first team in 1999 and 2001, while also garnering Academic All-Pac-10 accolades in 2001. He joins Lisa Aguilera (1998-01) as the program's only two-time honorees.
Getting Warmed Up For...
The 2002 NCAA West Regional race is next up for the Sun Devil harriers. The team will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., the home of Stanford, and compete for a spot in the 2002 NCAA Championships. The regional race is slated for Nov. 16.