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Sun Devils Burst On To National Scene
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 11/17/1999
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Nov. 17, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State's men and women look to establish themselves as national contenders at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Championships, Monday, Nov. 22, at the Indiana University Cross Country Course in Bloomington, Ind. It is the first nationals appearance for the Sun Devil men and the second straight for ASU's women. The men's championship race begins at 9:00 a.m. MST (11:00 a.m. EST) and the women run at 10:15 a.m. MST (12:15 p.m. EST).

The Field: ASU is one of 17 schools to have both its men's and women's team in the final 31-team NCAA Championship fields. Both Sun Devil squads were one of 13 at-large selections as both were one place shy of automatically qualifying at the NCAA West Regional, where each finished third. Eighteen teams automatically qualified by placing among the top two squads at nine regional championships. The West Regional is represented by six teams in both the men's and women's field. The Pac-10 Conference has six women's teams and four men's teams participating. ASU's women finished second and the men fourth at the Pac-10 Championships.

Monday, Nov. 22- NCAA Championships, Bloomington, Ind.
Men's Championship: 9:00 a.m. (MST), 10K, Women's Championship: 10:15 a.m. (MST), 5K

Sun Devils Ranked: Both of Arizona State's teams are ranked 10th in the final national rankings of the year. ASU's women have been ranked as high as third in the FinishLynx poll this year. Arizona State's men have climbed as high as ninth in the MONDO national rankings. Both squads have been ranked in each poll this season. This year marks the first time ASU's men have ever been ranked and the women were ranked for the first time ever last year.

NCAA Regional Review: Arizona State's men and women both finished third at the NCAA West Regional Championships in Portland, Ore, Nov. 13. It was a record day for the Sun Devils as both third-place team finishes eclipsed the previous ASU records at regionals. The previous ASU bests were a fifth-place finish by the men in 1984 and a fifth-place finish by the women in 1983. Individually, both school regional records fell. Sophomore Isaiah Festa finished second in the men's 10K race, finishing in 30:36, six seconds behind Oregon's Steve Fein. Junior Kelly MacDonald broke the women's record with a fourth-place finish on the 5K course, clocking a 17:04, 14 seconds behind champion Julia Stamps of Stanford. In the school record books, Festa surpassed Mike Stahr's fourth-place finish in 1984 and MacDonald eclipsed a pair of sixth-place finishes in 1982 and 1988. ASU placed two runners in the top five in each meet as sophomores Lisa Aguilera (17:15) and Fasil Bizuneh (30:45) each placed fifth. ASU's men edged 11th-ranked Oregon by four points, 92-96, for third place on the strength of those top-five finishes and the efforts of Garrett Jensen (21st, 31:12), Juan Chavira (23rd, 31:22) and Jeremy Rasmussen (43rd, 32:08). ASU's women scored 86 points as Colleen Burke placed 15th (17:35), Mary Duerbeck 30th (18:08) and Brianna Torres 32nd (18:09).

Pac-10 Championship Review: The emergence of ASU as a conference and national contender continued at the Pac-10 Championships, held Oct. 30 at El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach, Calif. ASU's women finished second to top-ranked Stanford, the best finish in school history. ASU's point total of 62 shattered the previous school-best at the Pac-10 Championships (121, 1986). The men matched their school-best finish of fourth from a year ago, even as Isaiah Festa ran while suffering from asthma which flared up due to the heat and smog. The men's point total of 84 also crushed the ASU Pac-10 Championship record (108, 1986). Individually, Lisa Aguilera and Fasil Bizuneh each earned all-conference honors with fourth-place finishes. Aguilera's finish is the best in school history, beating out Priscilla Hein's sixth-place effort a year ago, and Bizuneh's finish is eclipsed only by Todd Lewis' third-place finish in 1991. The women placed three runners in the top 10 as Aguilera was followed by Colleen Burke (9th) and Kelly MacDonald (10th). The three top-10 finishers matched ASU's total number of top-10 finishes in its women's history at the Pac-10s.

NCAA Championship History: The 21st century will end with Arizona State's men making their first NCAA Championship appearance and the women earning their second consecutive trip to nationals. ASU's women finished in a tie for 23rd (534 points) at last year's meet, their first appearance ever. Priscilla Hein's 39th-place finish in 1998 is the highest by an ASU woman, as only four Sun Devils had raced as individuals prior to last year's team appearance. ASU's men have been represented individually four times with Todd Lewis' 11th-place finish in 1991 serving as the school record. Bloomington was the site of the 1974 meet when Larry Lawson finished 16th and Mike Elder placed 145th. Mike Stahr finished 101st in 1984.

Breakthrough Meet: ASU's men and women have each had a "breakthrough" meet during the 1999 regular season that vaulted them onto the national scene. ASU's women got off to a strong start and won their second consecutive meet to start the season, capturing the Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by Minnesota, which included eight ranked squads. Following that win, the women jumped from No. 16 to No. 3 in the nation. The men's statement came later in the season as the Sun Devils' fifth-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational in Bloomington, Ind., pushed ASU from No. 19 to No. 9 in the country.

Frontrunners: Two men and two women have consistently set the pace for Arizona State in 1999 and the two Championships meets the Sun Devils have run since Oct. 31 have made that clear. On the men's side, Fasil Bizuneh and Isaiah Festa have six top 10 finishes between them and have finished 1-2 for the Sun Devils in three of five races. Bizuneh was ASU's top finisher at the Pac-10 Championships (fourth) while Festa showed no signs of the asthma that plagued him in Long Beach at the NCAA West Regionals in Portland, finishing a school-record second. Bizuneh and Festa each ran for the U.S. at the 1999 World Junior Championships and were the top American finishers (see International Experience).

On the women's squad, Lisa Aguilera and Kelly MacDonald have also finished 1-2 for ASU in three of five races in 1999. Aguilera broke the school record by finishing fourth at the Pac-10 Championships and MacDonald broke the school-record by finishing fourth at Regionals. Furthermore, Colleen Burke has five top 20 and two top five finishes this year.

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. Under his tenure, ASU has posted the best Pac-10 finishes in school history (Women 2nd in 1999, Men 4th in '98 and '99) and the best regional finishes in school history (both finished 3rd this year). In addition, the men are making their first appearance in school history at the NCAA Championships in 1999, and the women have earned back-to-back berths to nationals including a 23rd-place finish in 1998. 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 six squads to the NCAA Championships.

Incredible Progress: The last two seasons have seen Arizona State cross country take tremendous strides toward becoming a conference and national championship contender. Here are some of the many accomplishments ASU has achieved over the past two years:

Women

  • ASU made back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances, including its first NCAA Championships appearance in 1998, finishing 23rd.

  • ASU was ranked for the first time in school history in 1998 and climbed as high as 3rd in the FinishLynx poll in 1999.

  • Prior to 1998, ASU had finished higher than seventh at the Pac-10 Championships only three times. After finishing fourth in 1998, ASU finished a school-record second in 1999, losing only to No. 1 Stanford.

  • ASU improved from 10th to sixth at the 1998 NCAA Regional Championships, its best finish since 1986, and broke the school record with a third place finish in 1999.

  • Three Sun Devils finished in the top 10 at the 1999 Pac-10 Championships, matching the total top-10 finishes in the previous 13 years.

  • In 1997, ASU had one runner finish in the top 50 at NCAA Regionals. In 1998, four Sun Devils finished in the top 50. In 1999, six Sun Devils finished in the top 50 including two top-five finishes.

  • In 1999, Lisa Aguilera's fourth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships was the best in school history and earned her All-Pac-10 honors.

  • In 1999, Kelly MacDonald's fourth-place finish at the NCAA West Regionals was the best in school history, eclipsing a pair of sixth-place finishes in 1982 and 1988

  • In 1998, Priscilla Hein became the first All-American and All-Pac-10 performer in ASU history, notching the Sun Devils' then- best individual finishes at both the Pac-10 Championships (6th) and NCAA Championships (39th).

  • Opened the 1999 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.

    Men

  • Prior to 1998, ASU had finished in last place at the Pac-10 Championships nine of the previous 10 seasons and higher than seventh only three times. The Sun Devils have finished fourth in both 1998 and 1999, a school record.

  • ASU improved from 11th in 1997 to a school-record third in 1999 at the NCAA West Regionals.

  • Fasil Bizuneh's fourth-place finish at the 1999 Pac-10 Championships is second only to Todd Lewis' third-place finish in 1991 and the best finish by a Sun Devil since Erin Scroggins finished ninth in 1993. It is also only the fourth top-10 finish in ASU Pac-10 history.

  • ASU had two top-five finishers at the 1999 West Regionals including a school-record second-place finish by Isaiah Festa, surpassing Mike Stahr's fourth-place finish in 1984.

  • ASU's Fasil Bizuneh and Isaiah Festa were the top two American finishers at the 1999 World Jr. Championships.

  • ASU was ranked for the first time in school history this year, entering the MONDO rankings at No. 17 and climbing as high as ninth.

    Individual Championship History: Here's a look at where ASU's runners finished in Championship competition during their career:

    Name 'YearPac-10NCAAReg.Name 'YearPac-10NCAAReg.NCAAs
    Chad Barrett '99DNR111thLisa Aguilera '994th5th
    Fasil Bizuneh '994th5thLisa Aguilera '9829th42nd131st
    Fasil Bizuneh '9820th20thColleen Burke '999th15th
    David Burke '9949thDNRMary Duerbeck '9923rd30th
    David Burke '9848th54thMary Duerbeck '9714th30thDNR
    David Burke '9753rd101stMary Duerbeck '9638th93rdDNR
    Juan Chavira '9918th23rdKelly MacDonald '9910th4th
    Juan Chavira '9814th18thKelly MacDonald '9815th20th134th
    Isaiah Festa '9922nd2ndKelly MacDonald '9739th53rdDNR
    Isaiah Festa '9815th35thAmy Maciasek '9929th48th
    *Garret Jensen '9917th21stAmy Maciasek '9834th50th235th
    Jeremy Rasmussen'9923rd43rdAmy Maciasek '9751st103rdDNR
    Brandon Strong '9944th47thKristin McFerron '9838th59th158th
    Brandon Strong '9842nd62ndNicole Simmons '99DNR56th
    Brandon Strong '9754th75thNicole Simmons '9839th53rd227th
    Cody Sohn '9933rdDNR
    Cody Sohn '9840th75th211th
    Brianna Torres '9916th32nd

    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)Note
    Lisa Aguilera, So.Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial)Fourth-place finish at Pac-10s is the best in school history
    Colleen Burke, Jr.Phoenix, Ariz. (Phoenix CC)Second-best effort on team at Pac-10s, finishing ninth
    Mary Duerbeck, Jr.Chamois, Mo. (Osage)Ankle injury has slowed her in postseason after two top 10 finishes
    Kelly MacDonald, Jr.Tualatin, Ore. (Tualitin)Fourth-place finish at Regionals is the best in school history
    Amy Maciasek, Jr.Arden Hills, Minn. (Mounds View)Improved 22 places at Pac-10s since freshman year
    Nicole Simmons, Jr.Glendale Ariz. (Park College)Posted two top-20 finishes this year (Canyon West and ASU Invitational)
    Cody Sohn, So.Carmel, Ind. (Carmel)Season-best 12th-place finish at Cal Irvine Invitational
    Brianna Torres, So.Peoria, Ariz. (Paradise Valley CC)Improved from seventh-best Sun Devil at first meet to fourth-best at Pac-10s

    Men's Probable Lineups

    NameHometown (Last School)Note
    Chad Barrett, Jr.Phoenix, Ariz. (Paradise Valley CC)Ran only third race of season at Regionals, finishing 111th.
    Fasil Bizuneh, So.Indianapolis, Ind. (Ben Davis)Fourth at Pac-10s and fifth at Regionals
    David Burke, Jr.San Diego, Calif. (Torrey Pines)Finished 49th at Pac-10s, illness kept him out of Regionals
    Juan Chavira, So.Hanford, Calif. (Hanford)Gaining his stride as season progresses, 18th at Pac-10s and 23rd at Regionals
    Isaiah Festa, So.Morro Bay, Calif. (Morro Bay)Broke school record with 2nd-place finish at Regionals
    Garret Jensen, Sr.Fullerton, Calif. (Dartmouth)Transfer from Dartmouth provides NCAA experience for Sun Devils
    Jeremy Rasmussen, Fr.Glendale, Ariz. (Mountain Ridge)Improved time from 26:34 at Pre-NCAA to 25:11 at Pac-10s
    Brandon Strong, Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Paradise Valley)Ran 25:33, ASU's second-best effort, at Griak Invitational

    Arizona State NCAA Championship History

    Women

    Team Appearances (2)
    1998 t 23rd (534 pts.)
    1999

    Top 5 Indiviual Finishes
    Priscilla Hein, 39th, 1998
    Sabrina Peters, 44th, 1980
    Sabrina Peters, 45th, 1982
    Teresa Barrios, 51st, 1988
    Lynn Nelson, 61st, 1983

    All-Americans
    Priscilla Hein, 1998

    Individual Appearances (12 by 11 people)
    Lisa Aguilera, 1998
    Teresa Barrio, 1988
    Priscilla Hein, 1998
    Laura LaMena, 1987
    Amy Maciasek, 1998
    Kelly MacDonald, 1998
    Kristin McFerron, 1998
    Lynn Nelson, 1983
    Sabrina Peters, 1982 & 1980
    Nicole Simmons, 1998
    Cody Sohn, 1998

    Men

    Team Appearances (1)
    1999

    Individual Appearances (4)
    Todd Lewis, 11th, 1991
    Larry Lawson, 16th, 1974
    Mike Stahr, 101st, 1984
    Mike Elder, 145th, 1974

    All-Americans
    Todd Lewis, 1991
    Larry Lawson, 1974

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