TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona State University cross country teams will face some of the toughest competition it will see this season as it makes the trip to Madison, Wis., this weekend to compete in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. The meet is set for Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Zimmer Championship Course. The men’s 8000m race is set for an 11 a.m. CT start, while the women’s 6000m race will begin at Noon CT.
This weekend marks the third time the Arizona State teams have participated at the event, which is now in its fifth year of competition. Last season in Madison, the men’s side finished in 21st as a team, paced by Zach Zarda’s 37th place finish at 23:57. On the women’s side Shelby Houlihan finished first for the Sun Devils in 19:58 for 13th place, bettering her 40th place finish from her run her freshman year. Overall, the women finished 31st as a team.
PREVIEWING THE FIELD
Both races will feature some of the stiffest competition in the country, with 37 teams coming in ranked in the USTFCCCA men’s and women’s polls. On the men’s side, 20 of the 36 competing squads are ranked in this week’s poll, including No. 5 BYU, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Portland, No. 8 Columbia, No. 11 Syracuse, No. 12 Indiana, No. 13 North Carolina, and No. 14 Texas. ASU will also face Pac-12 Conference foes in Arizona, No. 21 UCLA, and Washington (RV). The unranked women will face stiff competition, facing off against 17 ranked teams, including three of the top five teams in the nation: No. 1 Portland, No. 3 Arizona, and No. 5 Arkansas. Also coming in ranked in the top-15 are Washington (4), New Mexico (7), Michigan State (9), San Francisco (10), Dartmouth (13), and Cornell (15). Of the 37 teams in the women’s field, an additional nine have received votes in this week’s poll. Host Wisconsin’s men’s team sits at 20th in the nation, while its women have received votes.
IN THE RANKINGS
The ASU men dropped one spot to No. 30 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 second-ranked Pac-12 team. The ASU women have moved up to No. 12 in the West Region this week.
LAST TIME OUT
Junior Shelby Houlihan showed there was no sign of regressing from her sophomore campaign as she won the 28th Annual Roy Griak Invitational 6k with a time of 20:35.45. Houlihan’s time was nearly 13 seconds ahead of the runner up finisher and 15 seconds ahead of the third-place mark. On the men’s side, the Sun Devils posted an exceptional third-place finish at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. The women were 10th overall in the competition with sophomore Adriana Olivas running perhaps the best race of her life with a 30th-place overall finish in 21:45.30. Senior Garrett Seawell had the best race of his Sun Devil career, pacing the men with an 11th-place finish in 24:42.2 over the 8,000-meter course – less than 20 seconds behind race winner Tyler Thatcher of No. 4 BYU.
Junior Shelby Houlihan raced for the first time this season and came out the champion of the 28th Annual Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn. on Sept. 28, once again establishing herself as one of the elite runners in the nation 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.