Nov. 10, 2011
TEMPE -- National championship bids will be on the line this weekend for the Arizona State University cross country teams as they head to Palo Alto, Calif., to compete at the NCAA West Regional Championships. At the last stop before the NCAA Championship fields are announced, both Arizona State find themselves on the bubble on earning an at-large bid and will be looking to solidify their spots at the Stanford Golf Course on Saturday. The women are coming back from a solid sixth-place run at the Pac-12 Championships while the men are looking to rebound from their ninth place finish at the conference meet. Events are set to begin at 10 a.m. PST on Saturday, Nov. 12 with the men's 10,000-meter race and the women will follow at 11:15 a.m. with their 6,000-meter run.
With the nine region races throughout the United States crowning both a regional team champion and an individual champion, the heading into the region races is for a team to finish in the Top 2 to earn an automatic berth into the national final. 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 by 7 p.m. ET (5 p.m. Arizona) on Sunday night on the NCAA web site (ncaa.com).
Previewing the Field: Men
The NCAA West Regionals will feature mostly the same cast of characters that faced off at the Pac-12 Championships, but with the addition of several other schools from the west, though the conference champion Colorado Buffalo will actually be competed at the NCAA Mountain Regional. The addition of Big West champion Cal Poly and West Coast runner-up Portland definitely add to the mix and the implication in earning a national championship bid. Four of the top 21 teams in the nation will be in action, including No. 6 Stanford, No. 8 Portland, No. 17 Oregon and No. 21 UCLA. Despite dropping out of the top-25 after a ninth-place performance at the conference championship, Coach Luis Quintana is confident a strong run in a field like this will send the Sun Devils on their way to the championship meet as they currently sit on the bubble. Saturday's race will be the first time this season that the length of the men's race increases to 10,000-meters. ASU will have to compete without one of the top runners though, as redshirt junior Darius Terry will be forced to miss the competition due to injury.
Previewing the Field: Women
The West Region remains arguably the most competitive division on the women's side of things and will likely see the most teams represented at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21. Six of the top 30 teams in the country are represented, including No. 6 Washington, No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 16 Arizona, No. 26 California and No. 27 San Francisco. In the preliminary numbers, the ASU women currently sit 28th in the tentative NCAA field after upsetting then-No.10 Cal at the Pac-12 Championships. The team will need another solid run this weekend in order to maintain that placement.
Meet History: NCAA West Region
Since 1998, the Sun Devil women have finished outside of the Top 5 in the West only twice (6th in 1998 and 13th last year) while finishing second four times (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005) and third four other times. The men, in that same time, have posted 12 Top 10 finishes (11th in 1998 and 2006) while taking second in 2004 and finishing third twice (1999 and 2005).
Last Time Out
The Sun Devil cross country program hosted the Pac-12 Championships on Oct. 29 at the Wigwam Golf Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz. The men's team suffered a bit of an off day, finishing ninth overall and led by Nick Happe's 18th-place run. The women bolstered their NCAA Championship chances though, upsetting then-No.10 Cal to finish sixth overall. Freshman phenom Shelby Houlihan paced the team with an eighth-place finish to earn second-team All-Conference honors.
Oh, Happe Day
Nick Happe's race in Wisconsin represented a breakout race for the junior, pacing the team for the first time in his career. Happe was eighth among Pac-12 runners and, more importantly, was able to step up when the team needed it after Darius Terry found himself plagued with back spasms about 1,000 meters into the race. Happe followed that up with a respectable 18th-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships to pace the team for a second consecutive competition. The team will rely heavily on the junior if they are to have a shot at making the NCAA field.
Freshman phenom Shelby Houlihan has already looked to be the top freshman in the Pac-12 Conference, finishing eighth at the Pac-12 Championships and in a blistering time of 20:15 and the fastest ASU frosh time at a conference championship ever (though it must be noted that not all courses are the same and thus times can vary). However, there was no doubt that Houlihan was the top freshman in that competition and might just be the top freshman in the country, a feat she will look to confirm in the coming competitions.
For the Record
The ASU team win at the GCU Invitational marked just the third time in school history that the program has won more than one meet in the same season, having also won the George Kyte Classic in the 2011 opener in Flagstaff, Ariz. The only other times the ASU men have accomplished the feat was in 2005 and 1993.
The wait to witness some of ASU's prime recruits in action ended at the Roy Griak Invitational with several student-athletes making their collegiate debuts. Shelby Houlihan looked to live up to much of the hype, as the Iowa prep star paced the Sun Devils en route to a 24th place overall finish among some of the top competition in the country in her first race in the Maroon and Gold. Fellow freshman Macy Bricks took home 71st and was the fourth ASU harrier across the line, scoring points in her debut as well.
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.
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.).
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 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 Brian 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.
They Run Fast...And They're Smart
The women's cross country team was one of five ASU teams to post a 100 percent four-year Graduation Success Rate (GSR). That tally was tops among the conference.
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.
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 men's team, which has spent much of the season in the top-25, dropped out after the squads ninth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. The women's team remains unranked.
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.
Territorial Cup Series
Arizona swept the State Farm Territorial Cup points at the Pac-12 Championships in Litchfield Park, Ariz., two weekends ago, defeating the Arizona State teams on both the men's and women's side, Arizona State currently trails the Wildcats in the points, 2-1.