Sept. 5, 2004
Each year, the new season opens with veterans returning to the team and welcoming in the additions of talented newcomers that will look to bolster the depth and success of the team. This year, that standard also applies to the coaching staff. With the departure of eight-year head coach Walt Drenth, Louie Quintana, an assistant with the program for the previous two seasons, steps into the guide the harriers and brings the youthful exuberance of a newcomer while also adding the coaching experience attained under Drenth. Although the leader of the team has changed, the projected success of the Sun Devil harriers remains constant.
"We are such a veteran-laden group that I fully anticipate the men reaching the NCAA Championships this year," Quintana said. "They believe they can make it to Terre Haute for the meet and after a strong spring and summer, I feel they should be able to attain that goal. On the women's side, we are coming into the season with a little different perspective because they have been to nationals six years in a row. Our expectations, being ranked as high as third in the nation last year, is to come out of the gates strong at the start of the season like we always have and try to sustain that level of competition throughout the rest of the year. I feel the women should be a solid Top 10 team this year at the NCAA meet and, if things go right, we could have a shot at finishing with a trophy (Top 4 finish)."
With five meets to prepare the squads for championship competition, including two on their home turf of Tempe Kiwanis Park, the Sun Devils will look to build upon the groundwork set over the past years and try to bring ASU to the front of the pack both in the conference and national scenes. To do so, Quintana will try to meld the talents of numerous veterans, young freshmen and several transfers. For the women, nine student-athletes return from last year, including all seven that ran in the NCAA Championships a year ago, while the men's roster contains 15 student-athletes that appeared on the 2003 roster. The women welcome nine new members to the fold including seven first-year runners (six freshmen and one sophomore) and two transfers with the men bringing in six newcomers, adding five freshmen and one transfer.
Women's Season Outlook
Prior to the 1998 season, the women had never competed in the NCAA Championship meet. That year, ASU advanced to the meet, tied for 23rd overall and got the ball of success rolling along. In that span, the Sun Devils finished 23rd three times before taking 14th a year ago. They also added sixth and 12th-place finishes to the books. With the caliber of student-athletes the women's roster contains, prospects for a seventh-straight trip to the national meet look very good.
"Returning two All-Americans in Amy Hastings and Desiree Davila, and with Anna Masinelli, who was our second runner for most of the year and just missed out on the national honor, I look at as we have three All-Americans coming back to help this team," Quintana said. "Any time you can return three runners of their caliber, the prospects for the season look very good. Along with these three, we also have other runners that could possibly step in and challenge them in races to bring the team even more success. I am very excited for the season to get underway and see what the women can accomplish."
Last year, Hastings won two races and added second, third and fourth-place finishes before the national meet. She captured fourth at the Pac-10 Championships before finishing as the runner-up at the NCAA West Region meet. She followed that by winning the Pac-10 3,000m steeplechase title during the outdoor season on the track.
"Amy (Hastings) is excited to get back to competing after making the NCAA meet both indoors and outdoors on the track and is looking to improve on her 25th-place finish at the cross country championships last year," Quintana said. "I feel she is ready to make the jump at nationals and could finish in the Top 10 of the NCAA race."
Another thing the women have going for them is the senior leadership of Davila. After three successful years with the program, Davila will look to go out on top as only the second woman in program history to compete in four-consecutive NCAA Championship races.
"Desiree has been very steady for us in her entire career here," Quintana said. "Being an All-American, making the NCAA meet on the track twice and her great training over the summer, she is ready to make the jump higher into the standings in her senior year. She was 43rd last year and I feel she can be a Top 25 finisher this year."
Masinelli finished in the Top 15 overall in five of the six races she ran last year to provide a spark for the team. What is more impressive than that is the fact she was running with pain the entire time.
"Anna struggled in her training recently, but has been hampered by an injury over the past two years," Quintana said. "After successful surgery in June, she is now running pain-free for the first time in a long while. Being able to finish in the Top 10 at the regional meet under that amount of pain is remarkable. Without pain, there is no telling how well she could do this year with better training. I look for her to really contribute more this year."
Behind the solid veteran running of Hastings, Davila and Masinelli sits another talented and deep group of student-athletes led by the experience of two transfers.
"We have a couple of talented women entering the program this year," Quintana said. "Graduate student Victoria Jackson, who was second in the FootLocker meet in 1999, is coming from a successful program at North Carolina. She had some injuries in the past but has healed and will be an immediate impact on the squad. Her experience while competing at UNC will only help the rest of the team. Rachel Ellison, who transferred in from Mississippi, was their top runner over the past few seasons. She also brings some great experience to the program and I anticipate that she will be one of our Top 5 runners all year. "
The competitive performances of Liz Lindgren, Corey Randall, Jessica Crate and Jenna Wrieden also add to the team's overall depth. So to do the additions of some key freshmen.
"As far as freshmen are concerned, we signed Whitney Hardt, a very talented athlete from Arizona," Quintana said. "She will have some adjustments to make as all freshmen have to, including an increase in mileage, but she is a strong runner that could make an impact on the team this year. Jenna Kingma also is another talented addition to the roster and could be another newcomer that makes an impact on the team right away. I feel that the combination of athletes the women have on the team this year, we will be in great position at the end of the year to finish highly as a team in the championship meets."
Men's Season Outlook
Although absent from the previous two NCAA Championship meets, the Sun Devil men expect that the 2004 national race will see them toeing the line for the third time in school history. With a returning core of standout talent mixed with the success of transfers and promise of youth, the men are poised to remain in the upper tier of the Pac-10 Conference and have an impact on the national scene.
"The men are a hungry bunch and really want to succeed this year after just missing out on the NCAA meet in the past two seasons," Quintana said. "They are ready to not only make the meet this year, but to make an impact and really compete with the rest of the nation. Based on the improvements made by all of our veterans and the strides of our newcomers, we should have a very solid season of success."
A core of four runners led by 3,000m steeplechase standout Aaron Aguayo anchors the returning athletes. The junior that was the top placer for the harriers in three races last year is joined by fellow classmate Casey Burchill and the senior duo of Juan Reyes and J.J. Duke, the 2001 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year.
"Aguayo's spring with steeplechase wins at the conference and regional meets, Reyes being fifth in the 10K at the conference meet and Burchill running 29:48 and finishing third in the 10K at the Pac-10 meet, added to that the success Duke has had in cross country over the years, I feel the men are poised to be successful this year," Quintana said. "Having all this leadership and experience up front will really benefit the rest of the team. Their confidence could really be a boost to the younger runners and give us a very deep and talented team as the season progresses."
Several other returning student-athletes also will be looked to for depth, including Kal Clark, Roger Cahill and Ryan Warrenburg. Both Warrenburg and Cahill each competed in the west region cross country meet a year ago and performed well on the track while Clark, who redshirted the 2004 track and field season, will look to build upon the experience gained at the USA Cross Country Championships where he was one place shy of earning a berth on the world junior team.
The newcomers, just like the women, are comprised of two solid groups including a pair of transfers and several top freshman. Both transfers, Eric Dall from Nebraska and Velibor Radejovic from Northern Iowa, should make an immediate impact on the squad and provided added depth to roster while also adding to the competition for spots on the starting seven.
"Dall leads the charge as a 4:13 miler in high school in Scottsdale," Quintana said. "We tried to get him here a few years ago, but we are happy to have him with us now. We anticipate him adding to the level of competition for the Top 5 on the team. Radejovic had a great season with Northern Iowa and I feel he will improve more and more as his training increases. He made the final of the 5,000m run at the NCAA Championships and that experience will only help us."
The Valley of the Sun is well represented on the men's roster with nearly half of the entire roster, and three freshmen, hailing from the Greater Phoenix area. The local talent has always aided the success of the Sun Devil program and this year should prove no different.
"Joey Heller is one of the best high school milers to come out of Arizona in recent years, but is a little green to cross country, so as his experience level increases, I am sure he will make an impact on the team," Quintana said. "Jack Mann is going to be a tough runner as is Kent Henry. They all have the opportunity to make a strong contribution to the team this year and in the next years to come. Having a good presence of Valley athletes really helps us because they want to be here and want to compete for Arizona State. That translates into success and that is what our program is striving for again this year."