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ASU Faces Stiff Competition In Minnesota
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/21/1999
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Sept. 21, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State returns to the course this Saturday as the 16th-ranked women and 21st-ranked men travel to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational. The men's 8,000-meter gold race (Division I) begins at 9:00 a.m. (PT) and the women's 5,000-meter gold race starts at 10:00 a.m. (PT).

Saturday, Sept. 25 - Roy Griak Invitational, University of Minnesota Men's Gold Race: 9:00 a.m. (PT), 8K, Women's Gold Race: 10:00 a.m. (PT), 5K

The Field: Twenty-two Division I teams are entered in the women's race including eight ranked squads: No. 10 Providence, No. 15 Northern Arizona, No. 16 ASU, No. 17 Boston College, No. 18 Missouri, No. 20 UCLA, No. 23 Minnesota and No. 25 Colorado State. Twenty-seven D-I men's teams are entered including eight of the top 25: No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 6 Northern Arizona, No. 7 Providence, No. 9 Oregon, No. 13 Minnesota, No. 15 Butler, No. 19 Weber State, No. 21 ASU and No. 25 Iowa.

Sun Devils Ranked: For the first time in Arizona State history, the women's cross country is ranked in the preseason poll. ASU's women are 16th in the FinishLynx preseason rankings after climbing as high as 14th in last year's poll. The men's squad climbed into the rankings for the first time in school history at No. 21 in the first MONDO rankings of the season.

Last Time Out: Arizona State opened the 1999 campaign in impressive fashion at the UC Irvine/Asics Cross Country Invitational as the women won and the men placed second. The Sun Devils toppled defending champion Arizona and 15th-ranked Northern Arizona, who finished second and third, respectively, in the 16-team women's meet. ASU's men trailed only eighth-ranked Arizona and defeated sixth-ranked Northern Arizona in the 13-team meet. The Sun Devil women dominated the upper half of the 5,000-meter race as Sun Devil runners took second through fifth place and six of the top 12 individual places. Sophomore Lisa Aguilera led ASU, finishing second in 17:34.8 to Arizona's Tara Chaplin (17:32.1). Also scoring for the Sun Devils were juniors Kelly MacDonald (3rd, 17:47.8), Colleen Burke (4th, 18:03.2), Mary Duerbeck (5th, 18:07.5) and Amy Maciasek (9th, 18:20.1). ASU's men were led by the sophomore duo of Fasil Bizuneh and Isaiah Festa who finished in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Bizuneh came in at 24:47.6 and Festa at 24:49.3 in the 8,000-meter race. Senior Garrett Jensen, a transfer from Dartmouth, finished 12th in his Sun Devil debut (25:02.8) while sophomores Kris Alexander (14th, 25:08.1) and Juan Chavira (25th, 25:34.8) also scored for the Sun Devils.

Improvement: If ASU's first meet is any indication, one year can make a big difference. Running the same course that it began the 1998 season on, ASU's times dramatically improved almost across the board. As a team ASU's point totals improved from 103 to 62 (-51) on the men's side and from 133 to 22 (-111) for the women. Here's a look at ASU's runners who took part in both meets:

Women          '98 Time/Pl. '99 Time/Pl. Diff.   Men            '98 Time/Pl. '99 Time/Pl. Diff.
Lisa Aguilera   19:03/26    17:34/2      1:29/24 Joe Agostinelli 26:38/48    26:59/59     +0:21/+11
Kelly MacDonald 19:09/29    17:47/3      1:22/26 Kris Alexander  26:18/41    25:08/14     1:10/27
Amy Maciasek    19:23/38    18:20/9      1:03/29 Fasil Bizuneh   25:31/18    24:47/5      0:48/13
Cody Sohn       19:10/30    18:27/12     0:43/18 David Burke     26:09/34    26:03/35     0:06/+1
                                                 Juan Chavira   25:03/7     25:34/25     +0:31/+18
                                                 Isaiah Festa   26:02/30    24:49/6      1:13/24
                                                 Charles Sharpe 28:46/97    27:43/74     1:03/23

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. ASU's appearance at the 1998 Women's NCAA Championships (finished 23rd) was the first in school history after the Sun Devil women matched their best-ever finish at the Pac-10 meet (4th) and recorded their best regional finish (sixth) since 1986. ASU's men, running with five freshmen and two sophomores, registered their best season of the decade in 1998 as the Sun Devils finished fourth at the Pac-10s (best men's finish ever) and eighth at regionals (best finish since 1986). 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 four squads to the NCAA Championships.

Up Next: ASU participates in the Canyon West Invitational held in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday, Oct. 2.

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