TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona State University cross country teams are set to continue its postseason slate on Friday as it travels to Sacramento, Calif., for the 2013 NCAA West Regional meet, hosted by Sacramento State. The race will be contested at the Haggin Oaks Golf Course with the men’s 10,000m set for 10:30 a.m. PT. The women’s 6k will follow at 11:45 a.m. PT. This race marks the last chance for teams to earn a bid for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terra Haute, Ind.
With the nine region races throughout the United States crowning both a regional team champion and an individual champion, the top two teams will earn an automatic berth to the national finals. After all nine meets have concluded, the field of 18 automatic qualifiers will be expanded to a final field of 31 teams as the NCAA will announce 13 at-large selections on Sunday, Nov. 24.
Since 1998, the Sun Devil women have finished outside of the Top 5 in the West only four times (1998, 2011, 2012, and 2013) while finishing second four times (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005) and third four other times. The men, in that same time, have posted 14 Top 10 finishes (11th in 1998 and 2006) while taking second in 2004 and finishing third twice (1999 and 2005).
Last season, Shelby Houlihan took fourth place, matching the seventh-best finish in ASU history at the Regional meet and is the best finish since Amy Hastings took second in 2005. Houlihan’s time of 19:50 is the fastest Sun Devil time in school history.
On the men’s side, Nick Happe finished 25th overall and took All-West Region honors with a time of 30:18, and the team overall finished sixth.
PREVIEWING THE FIELD
The No. 28 men’s team will face off against four West Region teams that are ranked in the USTFCCCA national poll: No. 4 Oregon, No. 6 Stanford, No. 10 Portland, and No. 29 Washington. ASU will also face Pac-12 Conference foes California, UCLA, and Washington State.
The No. 26 women’s team will face off against a stacked field with six teams in the region ranked in the national poll, including No. 1 Arizona, No. 12 Washington, No. 15 Oregon, No. 17 San Francisco, No. 18 Stanford, and No. 25 Boise State. Also in the field from the Pac-12 are California, UCLA, USC, and Washington State.
On the men’s side, Stanford is the reigning regional champion as it placed each of its scoring runners in the top-15 for 45 points, 62 points ahead of runner-up Portland (107). Arizona’s Lawi Lalang picked up the individual crown with a time of 29:01.80. Oregon claimed last year’s women’s crown with three top-10 finishers, including regional champion Jordan Hasay, for 64 points, while Stanford finished as the women’s runner-up with 85 points.
ABOUT THE COURSE
The Haggin Oaks Golf Course will utilize 9 golf holes for the race, with the men’s course encompassing three 3,333m loops, while the women’s course will be two 3,000 m loops. The course is very flat with four gradual, wide-sweeping turns.
IN THE RANKINGS
Following the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, both ASU teams have spots in the USTFCCCA national poll, with the women at No. 26 and the men’s team at No. 28. In the regional rankings, the men’s side has moved up to No. 4 in the West, while the women’s side holds at No. 7.
LAST TIME OUT
The Arizona State men’s and women’s teams each posted strong showings at the 2013 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Colo. Shelby Houlihan recorded her best Pac-12 finish of her career, finishing fourth overall, crossing at 21:19 while the rest of the team combined for 138 total points and a sixth-place finish.
On the men’s side, Garrett Seawell led the Sun Devils for the third consecutive race, finishing 13th overall at 25:32. As a team, the men matched their 2012 placement at fourth.
Ryan Herson finished 22nd overall with a time of 25:53. A season ago, Herson finished 25th at the conference meet. Herson was followed by freshman Bernie Montoya’s 32nd place finish at 26:05.
For the women’s side, sophomore Adriana Olivas crossed the finish line 16th overall with a time of 22:10. Olivas cut 26 seconds off her time in 2012 of 22:36, and shot up from a 72nd place finish in last year’s conference meet.
Freshman Chiara Warner rounded out ASU’s finishers in the top-30 with a 26th place finish at 22:32.
Junior Shelby Houlihan was ASU’s top finisher once again, placing fourth at 2013 Pac-12 Championships on Nov. 2. The Sioux City, Iowa, native has been the top finisher for the Sun Devils in every race she has competed in at Arizona State and became ASU’s first All-American since Kari Hardt finished 39th at the 2008 NCAA Championships. Houlihan became the 10th Sun Devil to earn All-America honors since 1998. Houlihan earned All-West Region honors last season, finishing fourth overall. Houlihan’s finish matched the seventh-best finish in ASU history at the Regional meet and was the best finish since Amy Hastings took second in 2005. While not all cross country courses are built the same, Houlihan clocked a time of 19:50 at the Jefferson Park Golf Course in the fastest time run by a Sun Devil over a 6,000-meter race, beating her own record of 19:58 set earlier this season - a school record previously held by the Olympian Hastings.
Sophomore Ryan Herson may have established himself as one of the potential breakout stars in the country with his opener at the George Kyte Classic two weekends ago. Herson was 11 seconds behind race-winner Matt McElroy of NAU, finishing in 24:56.1, the fastest time ever for a Sun Devil on the course and the first time an ASU runner broke the 25 minute barrier in Flagstaff – a feat made just as impressive by the fact that Flagstaff is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Herson was a consistent point-scorer for the Sun Devils last season and looks to establish himself as a new pace-setter this season with the loss of seniors Nick Happe and Darius Terry. Herson showed glimpses last season of his potential, being named the Pac-12 Men’s Track Athlete of the Week following his 5,000 meter victory at the Baldy Castillo in the opening week of the ASU season before advancing to the NCAA West Regional Championships at 10,000 meters.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Senior Steven Schnieders and junior Garrett Baker-Slama have been named the captains of the 2013 cross country team and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more deserving pair. The duo represent the only returning upper classmen to the Sun Devil roster this season and both were point scorers at the Pac-12 Championships in the past two seasons. Not only that, the duo is among the brightest on the team, both earned Pac-12 First Team All-Academic accolades last season. Baker-Slama was fifth overall at the George Kyte Classic, showing he can get it done on the course as well.
WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S
Heralded freshman Bernie Montoya put his skills to the test in the team’s opener in Flagstaff, finishing 10th overall in 25:46.2 in his collegiate debut. He was the third Sun Devil across the line in the competition, becoming one of the few ASU harriers in history to ever finish under 26 minutes on the Buffalo Park course. In 2012, Montoya made headlines across the country as he won the prestigious adidas Dream Mile in New York. Montoya shocked the field with his winning time of 4:01.32 to win the event, clocking the fastest time in United States junior class prep history and the ninth-fastest time in U.S. high school history, period. Montoya finished his career at Cibola High School in Yuma, Ariz., with eight track and field state championships and three cross country title and was unaimously regarded as one of the top recruits in the nation.
Coming into his 10th 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 seven 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 four individuals that have collected five NCAA titles, including Kyle Alcorn, who won the indoor 3,000-meter run and the outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2008 and more recently, Mason McHenry, who was the 2012 NCAA Indoor 800m champion.
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 was named as the head coach for the women’s cross country team for the 2011 campaign as a testament to that. Now in his second year as head women’s cross country coach, Cole 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 overseen Shelby Houlihan’s rise to one of the elite distance runners in the nation, coaching her to All-America honors in 2012 in cross country and Pac-12 title and All-America honors at 1,500 meters during the track and field season.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
The Arizona State cross country rosters feature a total of 31 student-athletes (16 men, 15 women). Of that total, there are an astounding 16 Sun Devils that are fresh faces to the program this season. That list features Jack Balder (Fr./Telecula,Calif.), Cody Brazeal (Fr./Clovis, Calif.), Nick Chatel (Fr./Westerville, Ohio), Noah Kenyawani (RFr./Nairobi, Kenya), Bernie Montoya (Fr./Yuma, Ariz.)/ Ryan Norton (Jr./Yuma, Ariz.), Kevin Rayes (Gr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Jack Rubenzer (Fr./Scottsdale, Ariz.), Miranda Kewley (Fr./Temecula, Calif.), Natalie Krafft (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Anna Long (Fr./Scottsdale, Ariz.), Jenna Maack (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Sydney Mierau (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Kala Stone (Fr./Kamloops, B.C.), Chelsey Totten (Fr./Santa Clarita, Calif.) and Chiara Warner (Fr./Townsend, Mont.).
The men’s team is the only squad to feature any seniors this season, with Steven Schnieders, Garrett Seawell and graduate Kevin Rayes the only individuals in their final year of eligibility. The women’s squad features a host of juniors but not a single senior this 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 teams have taken that task seriously and will field 13 Arizona natives on the 2013 roster, several of whom will be expected to play a large role on this year’s team. That list includes Noah Kenyawani (RFr./Tucson, Ariz.), Bernie Montoya (Fr./Yuma, Ariz.)/ Ryan Norton (Jr./Yuma, Ariz.), Kevin Rayes (Gr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Jack Rubenzer (Fr./Scottsdale, Ariz.), Natalie Krafft (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Anna Long (Fr./Scottsdale, Ariz.), Jenna Maack (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.), Sydney Mierau (Fr./Phoenix, Ariz.) among the newcomers while returners Garrett Baker-Slama (RJr./Tempe, Ariz.), Tommy Williams (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Daniel Wong (Tucson, Ariz.) and Tory Haberman (Gilbert, Ariz.) all also hail from Arizona.
2012: SEASON IN REVIEW
Nick Happe earned USTFCCCA All-West Honors as the ASU men came painstakingly shy of an NCAA Championship qualification last season. The team took sixth at the NCAA West Regional Championships after a promising fourth place finis at the Pac-12 Championship just weeks earlier. Happe was also named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year as the men reentered the rankings for several weeks following the strong finish at the Pac-12 Championships. Shelby Houlihan became ASU’s 10th female All-American since 1998 and the first Sun Devil to accomplish the feat since Kari Kardt in 2008 following her stellar season that saw her clock the fastest 6,000-meter time by any Sun Devil in history in cross country en route to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA West Regional Championships.