TEMPE -- The Arizona State University cross country teams are set for their first nationally test of the season as the squad prepares for the 28th Annual Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., on Saturday, Sept. 28. The Sun Devils are returning to the competition after a one-year hiatus but have been among the most consistent performers in the event over the last decade. The men’s 8,000-meter race is set to begin at 12:20 p.m. CT at the Les Bolstad Golf Course while the women’s race will get underway at 1:10 p.m. CT. The event will mark the first real gaging point for both the men and women’s squads with numerous nationally ranked teams set to compete at the pretigious events.
The women have enjoyed a great deal of success over the years at the Roy Griak Invitational as they have competed in the event 11 times since 1999 and won four times with five runner-up finishes and one third-place showing. The Sun Devils last won the meet in 2005 after capturing crowns in 2003, 2001 and 1999. They enter this week’s race having finished second in three of their last four appearances (2008, 2007 and 2006). The squad was 11th in their last appearance in 2011 while the men were fourth that season, marking their second-best finish at the event in program history. The team were runners-up in 2007 - the team’s best finish at the event.
PREVIEWING THE FIELD
The women’s race will feature several nationally ranked programs, including No. 5 Arizona, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 21 North Carolina, No. 26 Iowa State and No. 29 Butler. Other teams in the field that received votes in the latest USTFCCCA Coaches Poll poll include Weber State, Syracuse and Georgia. Twenty-two teams will be running on the men’s side. Arizona Stateis ranked 29th national while No. 4 BYU and No. 24 North Carolina State are also currently ranked in the USTFCCCA Poll. Georgia, Michigan State and Missouri all received votes in the most recent Coaches Poll.
IN THE RANKINGS
The ASU men dropped one spot to No. 29 in the most recent USTFCCCA Coaches Poll, but remained in the rankings for consecutive weeks for the first time since the sixth and seventh weeks of the 2011 Coaches Poll. The Sun Devil men began the season unranked but moved up following a strong showing in the team’s opener at the George Kyte Classic where the squad pushed the No. 2 NAU Lumberjacks to the end, coming just shy of knocking them off in a runner-up finish. The Sun Devil women remain unranked in the latest national polls. In the West Region Polls, the ASU men remained No. 4 in the rankings in the region and are currently the third-ranked Pac-12 team. The ASU women are currently ranked 14th in the West Region according to the most recent poll.
LAST TIME OUT
Sophomore Adriana Olivas opened up her 2013 campaign with a third-place overall finish among attached collegians at the Dave Murray Invitational over the three-mile course at the Dell Urich Golf Course in Tucson, clocking a time of 17:06.46 to fend off a clean sweep of runners from the University of Arizona, who finishing is first, second, fourth and fifth.Olivas helped the team to a second-place finish at the event. On the men’s side, sophomore Daniel Wong was the top finisher in 22:30.84 for a ninth-place finish in the 4.25-mile run for the ASU ‘B’ team as the squad finished third overall.
Junior Shelby Houlihan will be looking to establish herself as one of the elite runners in the nation this season in her third year with the Sun Devils. 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.