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ASU Cross Country Opens Season At UC Irvine
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/08/1999
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Sept. 8, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State opens the 1999 cross country season with both the men's and women's squads at the University of California-Irvine/Asics Invitational this Saturday, Sept. 11. The women's 5,000-meter race begins at 9:00 a.m. (PT) and the men's 8,000-meter race at 9:45 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 11
UCI/Asics Invitational
Women: 9:00 a.m. (PT), 5K
Men: 9:45 a.m. (PT), 8K

The Field: On the women's side, Arizona and USC are the only other Pac-10 representatives with 15th-ranked Northern Arizona also competing. The Wildcats and Lumberjacks are also in the men's meet. In all, 15 teams are in the men's meet and 18 in the women's, mostly from Southern California.

Quick Outlook: ASU returns six of its seven competitors at last year's Women's NCAA Championships, ASU's first-ever appearance at nationals. The Sun Devils lose All-American Priscilla Hein, but junior Mary Duerbeck returns to the squad after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Virtually the entire ASU men's squad returns after five freshmen and two sophomores led the Sun Devils to a fourth-place Pac-10 finish in 1998, ASU's best finish ever. In addition, Garret Jensen, a senior transfer from Dartmouth, is expected to add experience.

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 preseason rankings are not released until next week.

1998 Review: The 1998 season ranks among the best in ASU cross country history and the improvements made from 1997 are astonishing. Here are some highlights:

Women

  • ASU made its first NCAA Championships appearance, finishing 23rd.
  • ASU was ranked for the first time in school history, climbing as high as 14th in the FinishLynx poll.
  • ASU improved from last in the Pac-10 to fourth, matching its highest finish ever.
  • ASU improved from 10th to sixth at the NCAA Regional Championships, its best finish since 1986.
  • All of ASU's seven runners at the Pac-10 Championships finished in the top 40. In 1997, only three did.
  • In 1997, ASU had one runner finish in the top 50 at NCAA Regionals. In 1998, four Sun Devils did.

Men

  • ASU improved from last to fourth in the Pac-10 Championships, its best finish ever.
  • ASU improved from 11th to 8th at the NCAA West Regionals, its best finish since 1986.
  • ASU had three top-20 finishers (Juan Chavira, Isaiah Festa, Fasil Bizuneh) at the Pac-10 Championships in 1998 compared to none in 1997.
  • ASU had top-20 finishes from two runners (Chavira, Bizuneh) at the 1998 NCAA West Regionals , the first time since 1991 that ASU had any top-20 regional performances.
  • ASU's Fasil Bizuneh and Isaiah Festa were the top two American finishers at the 1999 World Jr. Championships.

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 where he led the Tribe to five Colonial Athletic Association cross country titles and one District II crown in 1990. He was named the CAA Cross Country Coach of the Year on five occasions and also tabbed as District II Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1995. While at William & Mary, Drenth led his harriers to three top 20 NCAA finishes (15th-1990, 18th-1994, 17th-1995).

Prior to his stint at William & Mary, Drenth was the head cross country coach at his alma mater, Central Michigan, from 1985-90. During his stint at Central Michigan, he was named District IV Coach of the Year in 1989 after leading CMU to the District IV title. He led the Chippewas to two Mid-American Conference titles and named MAC Coach of the Year in both of those seasons, 1988 & 1989.

Up Next: ASU travels to Minneapolis, Minn., for the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 25.

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