October 27, 1998
Bob Larsen's UCLA men's cross country team and Eric Peterson's Bruin women's squad, rated No. 23 in the U. S., will travel to Eugene, OR on Saturday to compete in the 1998 Pacific-10 Championships, hosted by the University of Oregon.
The course will be held at Alton Baker Park in Eugene and one portion of the course will be on Pre's Trail, named in honor of the great Oregon distance runner, Steve Prefontaine. The women's 5,000m race will start at 11 a.m. and the men's 8,000m competition will begin at 11:30 a.m. This is the first time in 25 years the conference cross country championships will be contested outside the state of California. Stanford served as the host for 23 of those championships, but starting this year, the league meet will be rotated on an annual basis among the Pac-10 member institutions (USC will host in 1999).
In 1998, the Pac-10 is the top cross country conference in the U. S. In the current national women's Top 25, six teams from the conference are ranked-- No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona, No. 12 Washington, No. 15 Arizona State, No. 16 Oregon and No. 23 UCLA.
Stanford is the defending champion and are looking to capture its fifth title in six years. Individually, Arizona senior Amy Skieresz is a three-time Pac-10 champion.
In the men's division, three of the Top Five teams in the nation are from the Pac-10--No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Arizona. Stanford is the two- time defending champion and the men's division features some of the top collegiate distance runners in the U. S.--defending champion Bernard Lagat, from Washington State; senior twins from Stanford, Bradley and Brent Hauser; Oregon senior Matt Davis, Arizona senior Abdi Abdirahman and UCLA senior Mark Hauser.
Last year in the women's division, the Bruins placed fourth. Running for UCLA on Saturday will be--sophomore Julie Ott, from U. of San Diego HS; sophomore Kelly Cohn, from Stockdale HS in Bakersfield; freshman Elaine Canchola, from Nordoff HS in Ojai; junior Christina Bowen, from San Ramon HS in Danville; junior Kara Barnard, from Pacific Palisades HS; junior Melinda George, from Chatsworth HS and sophomore Katie Nuanes, from Santa Ana HS in Santa Margarita. Cohn has been UCLA's top cross country runner all year and Ott last spring at the NCAA Outdoor placed 12th in the 10,000m.
Peterson, in his fifth season as head coach of the Bruin women, said the UCLA women's goal is to finish among the top three teams at the Pac-10. "Our goal is to beat teams like Oregon and Washington," he said. "They have been ranked higher than us all year. This will be a proving ground for our team. We are young and have no seniors in our top seven. This is our best opportunity in years to prove we belong among the Top 15 teams in the U. S."
For the Bruin women, the Pac-10 results will be a good indication of their chances of qualifying for the upcoming NCAA Championships, held in Lawrence, KS on Nov. 23. Before the NCAA and after the Pac-10 meet, the Bruins (both women and men) will compete in the Western Regional Qualifying meet at Fresno on Nov. 14. The top two teams in both the men's and women's divisions advance and this year the at-large berths have increased to 13 teams, from six in 1997. If the Bruin women finish third this weekend at the Pac-10, that's a good indication they will qualify on Nov. 14 for the NCAA Championships.
At last year's Pac-10 men's championship, the Bruin men also placed fourth. Competing for UCLA on Saturday in Eugene are-- senior Mark Hauser, from St. Augustine HS in San Diego; sophomore Paul Muite, from North Hollywood HS in Los Angeles; junior Will Bernaldo, from Nordhoff HS in Ojai; junior Mason Moore, from Nordhoff HS in Ojai; freshman Bryan Green, from Littlerock HS in Palmdale; junior Matt Pitts, from Mountain View HS in Los Altos and junior Daniel Brecht, from Petaluma HS.
Hauser, UCLA's No. 1 runner who is no relation to the Hauser twins at Stanford, is rounding into form after being slowed early in the season with knee and foot injuries. On Oct. 17 at the Triton Invite at UC San Diego, Hauser won the 8,000m race, setting a new course record in a time of 24:09. Last spring, he had a successful track season, placing 15th at the NCAA Outdoor in the 5,000m, finishing second in the 1,500m at the Pac-10 and earning All-American honors (distance medley relay) at the NCAA Indoor.
Larsen, in his 20th year as the Bruin men's coach, understands the strength of this year's men's Pac-10 team competition but he's hoping Hauser can run with the leaders in the men's race. "It will be tough for our team to break into the upper division this year," he said. "Individually though, Mark has been running real well. His strength is apparent in his recent workouts and races. He'll test himself to see if he can run with the top group."