Aug. 31, 2004
UCLA's women's cross country team in 2004 enters the upcoming campaign as one of the top collegiate distance corps in the U. S.
Last fall, the Bruins automatically qualified as a team to the NCAA Championships and placed seventh, the Bruins' highest national finish since 1985 (sixth-place). It was UCLA's third-consecutive NCAA bid and the Bruins' fifth in the last six seasons under 11th year head coach Eric Peterson. Also in 2003, the Bruins placed second, behind national champion Stanford, at the NCAA West Region and third at the Pac-10. At the Stanford Invite, UCLA became the only team to beat Stanford during the regular season.
From that highly-successful squad, the Bruins return five of their top seven runners - sophomore Ashley Caldwell, sophomore Alison Costello, junior Jenna Timinsky, senior Carmen Winant and junior Allison Hall. Also returning is junior redshirt Alejandra Barrientos, a leader of the Bruin distance corps since she arrived at UCLA as a heralded freshman in the fall of 2001.
Caldwell in 2003-04 earned All-America honors on three occasions. In cross country, she placed 36th (20:45.6) at the NCAA, in outdoor track she placed 10th in qualifying in the 800m (2:06.51, top eight Americans) and in indoor track, she ran the third leg (800m) on UCLA's DMR (3rd, 11:08.70, season-best). In cross country, she earned All-West Region (11th, 20.50) and second-team All-Pac-10 (14th, 22.17.2). In outdoor track, she won the 800m (2:06.88) at the Pac-10 and placed second (2:05.01, No. 4 in school history) at the NCAA West Region.
Costello last year as a true freshman had an impressive cross country campaign. On Feb. 7 in Indianaplis, she won the U. S. Junior Championship (20:55, 6km) and on March 20 in Brussels, Belgium, she helped the U. S. team place fourth at the World Junior Championship (Costello placed 30th, 22.10, 8km). Last fall, she finished 153rd (21:34.1) at the NCAA, earned All-West Region honors (14th, 20:53) and finished 15th (22:19.0) at the Pac-10.
Timinsky in cross country was 140th (21:30.4) at the NCAA, earned All-West Region (21st, 21.03) and placed 27th (23:17.4) at the Pac-10. In outdoor track last spring, she was an alternate on the Bruin 4 X 400m relay at the NCAA, placed 7th (2:08.02) in the 800m at the West Region and was fourth (2:08.55) at the Pac-10. Her 2:06.26 is No. 9 in school history.
Winant and Hall were solid contributors to the Bruin cross country squad last fall. Both ran in all three major meets -- Winant - NCAA (121st, 21:21.9), West Region (31st, 21:27), Pac-10 (24th, 23:07.2) and Hall - NCAA (190th, 21:56.6), West Region (34th, 21:38) and Pac-10 (38th (23:42.1).
"Ashley, Alison and Jenna are our top returners from last year's team and Carmen and Allison are veterans who have run in big meets throughout their careers," Peterson said. "These five runners will help form our scoring core and will provide excellence and depth, both in training and competition."
Barrientos, returning from a redshirt cross country season in 2003, was a leader on the Bruin women cross country teams that competed at the NCAA Championships in 2001 and '02. Last spring in track, she qualified for the NCAA Outdoor in the 1500m (4:25.72Q, 19th), placed fifth (4:20.20) at the West Region and third (4:23.15) at the Pac-10. Her 1500m personal-best 4:17.60 is No. 8 in school history.
"Alejandra has been a positive force on our cross country and track teams since she arrived at UCLA following a highly-honored prep career," Peterson said. "She had a successful track campaign last spring and I expect her to carry that momentum into this cross country campaign."
Also back from last season are two runners who ran at the 2003 Pac-10 Championships - junior Sarah West (42nd, 23:47.1) and sophomore Emily Haigh (64th, 25:00.2). Last fall, West ran in five regular season meets, including the Pre-National (72nd, 21:56.2/6000m) and her best finish was at the Triton Classic (5th, 22:49.4/6k). Haigh ran in four regular season meets, with a top placement of sixth (18:40.4/5k) at the Fullerton Invite.
"Sarah and Emily's growth and development last fall, combined with the return of Alejandra, assists our reloading process following the departure of our senior leaders from last year's squad - Valerie Flores and Melissa McBain."
UCLA welcomes a talented incoming freshman class, led by Claire Rethmeier, from Escondido San Pasqual HS. Rethmeier finished 14th at the Footlocker Nationals and earned third-team All-American cross country honors. In track, Rethmeier is a four-time CIF champion (3200m-three times and 1600m-once). She won (10:27.32) the State championship in the 3200m in 2003, was runner-up (10:33.57) at the State meet in 2004 and placed 10th as a sophomore.
"I think our incoming freshman class is highly-talented and will make an immediate impact on this squad," Peterson said. "Claire was an outstanding high school runner and she has a chance to contribute immediately to our squad."
From last season, the Bruins lose top runners Flores and McBain. Last fall, Flores was the Bruins' top runner, earning All-American, All-West Region and first-team All-Pac-10 cross country honors. She was UCLA's No. 1 runner at the NCAA ( 20th, 20:28.9), West Region (4th, 20:30) and Pac-10 (7th, 21:55.10) meets. Flores will be a senior this spring in track.
McBain in 2003-04 earned All-America honors three times - cross country (NCAA, 50th, 20:53.6), indoor track (DMR, 3rd, 11:08.70, opening leg) and outdoor track (1500m, 10th, 4:24.13, top eight Americans). In cross country last fall, she also earned All-West Region (25th, 21:11) and was UCLA's No. 4 runner (19th, 22:40.9) at the Pac-10. McBain is the school record-holder in the 3000m steeplechase (10:36.06)
"Valerie and Melissa will be missed," Peterson said. "Valerie's senior cross country season was one of the most succesful by an individual in school history. Melissa was simply phenomenal in the post-season for us last year earning both All-West Region and All-American honors at NCAA's and really helped our team effort."
Lena Nilsson, one of the greatest women's distance runners in UCLA history, no longer has collegiate eligibility. She missed all of last spring's outdoor track season with a left foot stress fracture. Her last cross country season was in 2002, leading the Bruins to their fourth NCAA team appearance since 1998 and earning All-America honors. During her Bruin career, she won three NCAA distance titles (2003-indoor 800m; 2002-outdoor 1500m/indoor DMR), was a two-time (2002-03) Pac-10 Women's T & F Athlete of the Year and the school record-holder in the 800m (2:02.26) and 1500m (4:07.69).
"Lena's contribution helped build our Bruin program into one of the best in the nation," Peterson said. "She set a high standard for all UCLA runners in the future to try and match. As a coach, I am proud of Lena's accomplishments and development while at UCLA. She was more than an elite distance runner. Lena was proud to be a Bruin, cared abut her teammates and worked tirelessly pursuing personal excellence."