Cross Country Teams Prepared For NCAA Qualifier Meet

Nov. 8, 1999

LOS ANGELES - Eric Peterson's UCLA women's cross country team, ranked No. 14 in the nation and Bob Larsen's Bruin men's squad will compete Saturday (Nov. 13) at the 1999 NCAA Western Regional Qualifying meet at Portland. Hosted by the University of Portland and held at the Blue Lake Regional Park in Troutdale, OR, the men's 10,000m race will start at 10 a.m. and the women's 5000m race will begin at 11 a.m. The challenging course has hosted two USA cross country championships.

The Western Region is one of nine across the country determining what teams and individuals will qualify for the upcoming 1999 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 22 at Bloomington, IN. The top two women's and men's teams from each region automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships. There are also 13 at-large team berths that will be announced on Monday, Nov. 15. Individual women and men, not on qualifying teams, must finish in the Top 25 and the first four finishers (not on a qualifying team) will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships (a total of 36 runners). There will then be two at-large individual berths selected from around the nation (a total of 38 individual runners not on qualifying teams).

UCLA's women are looking to advance to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season. In 1998, the Bruin women used their strong finish (fifth) at the Western Regional Qualifying meet at Fresno to advance as an at-large team to the NCAA Championships (the Bruin men placed ninth last season at the Western Regionals). It was the first time since 1988 the UCLA women had advanced to the NCAA Cross Country Championships as a team. If the Bruin women advance, it will be the fourth time in school history UCLA's women will have competed at the NCAA Championships two years in a row (1976, 6th-1977, 5th, 1979, 11th-1980, 7th, 1985, 6th-1986, 11th).

The Western Region, in both the women's and men's competition, is the toughest in the nation. In women's competition, Stanford is ranked No. 1 in the nation and two weeks ago won the Pac-10 title. Joining the Cardinal at the Western Region as nationally-ranked teams are No. 9 Arizona State, No. 10 Washington, No. 14 UCLA, No. 24 Arizona and No. 25 Oregon.

Leading the Bruin women on Saturday will be sophomore Kate Vermeulen, a transfer from West Virginia who last winter won the mile at the 1999 NCAA Indoor. Vermeulen ran a strong race two weeks ago at the Pac-10 Meet, placing sixth, in a team season-best time of 17:25.10 over the 5000m course. Joining her will be seniors, Kara Barnard and Melinda George, juniors, Kelly Cohn, Katie Nuanes and Jessica Matthews and sophomore Elaine Canchola.

"During her training the last few weeks, Kate has been as strong as any runner we've ever had here," said Peterson, in his sixth season as the Bruin coach. "She is looking to have a great meet on Saturday and can finish in the top three.

"As a team, we're going after an automatic spot because we're capable of finishing as one of the top two teams," Peterson said. "But if we finish in the top four, we should be a lock for an at-large bid."

The men's competition at the Western Region will also feature the nation's top collegiate cross country teams. Arizona is rated No. 4 in the nation and won the Pac-10 title two weeks ago, beating No. 5 Stanford. Joining the Wildcats and Cardinal as the top teams competing will be No. 11 Oregon, No. 15 Arizona State and No. 18 Portland, the host school.

UCLA has not been at full strength all season and two weeks ago, a depleted UCLA squad placed seventh at the Pac-10. In that meet, senior Will Bernaldo could not compete (flu), junior Paul Muite did not finish (dehydration) and sophomore Bryan Green finished, but was slowed with the flu. Running for the Bruin men on Saturday will be seniors Dan Brecht and Matt Pitts, juniors, Muite and Mason Moore, sophomore Green and freshman Justin Patananan Also competing will be either senior Bernaldo or junior Scott Abbott, who is slowed with a back injury.

Larsen is completing his 21st season as head coach of the Bruin men's cross country team and last spring completed his 15th year as UCLA's men's head track and field coach. At the conclusion of cross country, Larsen will serve as a Bruin assistant men's track and field coach, under new UCLA head mentor Art Venegas, then will retire at the conclusion of the 2000 outdoor track and field season.

1999 UCLA Schedule/Results

Sept. 4-at CS Fullerton Invite (Bruin women/men, both first-place)
     18-at Aztec Invite (San Diego, Bruin women, second-place)
     25-at Roy Griak Invite (Minneapolis, MN, Bruin women, sixth-place,
        Bruin men, 12th-place).
Oct.  2-at Stanford Invite (Bruin women "B" team, fourth-place in college division)
      9-at Long Beach State Invite (Bruin women, first-place,
        Bruin men, second-place)
        Bruin men, 25th-place)
     22-Titan Invitational (Fullerton, Bruin women, first-place,
        Bruin men did not compete)
  30-at Pac-10 Championship (Long Beach, Bruin women, fourth-place
        Bruin men, seventh-place).
Nov. 13-at NCAA Western Region Qualifying (Portland, OR)
      22-at NCAA Championship (Bloomington, IN).

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