Sept. 26, 2007
The UCLA men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Eugene, OR on Saturday for the first major meet of the season, the Bill Dellinger Invitational. The meet features 30 collegiate teams from six of the nation's nine regions and top conferences such the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, Mountain West, Pac-10, Western Athletic and West Coast Conferences.
The women's 6,000-meter race starts at 9:15 a.m., and the men's 8,000-meter race follows at 10 a.m. Last year, the men finished sixth, while the women were eighth.
The invitational's 15-team men's field features seven teams ranked in the USTFCCCA top-30 - Wisconsin (first), Oregon (third), Washington (30th), Cal Poly (22nd), Portland (11th), UCLA (21st) and Alabama (17th) - and will be joined by Colorado State, Duke, Georgia, Marquette, New Mexico, Ohio State, Utah State and UTEP.
The women's race features five top-30 ranked teams - No. 4 Arkansas, No. 15 Georgia, No. 21 Colorado State, No. 17 Washington and No. 18 BYU. Other teams slated to compete include Marquette, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon State, Portland, UCLA, Utah State, UTEP and Wake Forest.
The men's team moved from 22nd in the pre-season poll to 21st this week and will look to move up in the national standings as a strong team has been assembled to compete against stiff competition in Oregon.
All-American Austin Ramos will compete in his first race of the season after redshirting in 2006. Kyle Shackleton, the 2006 team MVP, also will make his 2007 debut as both will lead the team on the course this weekend.
Backing up Ramos and Shackleton will be senior Henry Hagenbuch, juniors Drew Shackleton and Laef Barnes, and sophomores Marlon Patterson, Marco Anzures, Jake Matthews and Alex Crabill. Freshman Evan Watchempino, who has had a strong opening to his UCLA career, will round out the Bruins' 10 competitors on Saturday.
"This is a meet that we have pointed to in our pre-season and training preparations as an opportunity to run against some of the better teams in the nation and to test ourselves at that level," said head coach Eric Peterson. "We think we have a strong team and I know the guys are really excited to run up there. We had a really good experience there last year, and although the course type and location has changed, we are excited to run on the course that will be used for the Regional finals in November."
The Bruin women will send nine runners to Eugene with senior Claire Rethmeier and junior Olga Aulet-Leon leading the way. Also competing this weekend are juniors Ciara Viehweg and Lauren Jirges, sophomores Nicole Pennes and Hannah Roeder and freshmen Cobbie Jones and Shannon Murakami. Annie Adams, who recently rejoined the team, will also compete.
"We're still not at full strength, but Claire will be here to lead after a strong 2007 track campaign," added Peterson. "We are going to really look to her leadership this weekend and see if we can improve and be challenged by other strong teams."