Oct. 22, 2001
Eric Peterson's UCLA women, ranked No. 22 in the U. S., and men's cross country teams on Saturday (Oct. 27) will compete in the 2001 Pacific-10 Championships, held at the Pavilion Lakes Golf Course in Scottsdale, AZ. Arizona State will host the meet. The men's 8000m race will begin at 10 a.m. and the women's 6000m event will start at 11 a.m.
During the next three weeks, the Bruin women are looking to strengthen their hold on an at-large team berth to the upcoming 2001 NCAA Championships, Nov. 19 in Greenville, SC. At Saturday's Pac-10 meet, five of the nine conference women's teams are nationally-ranked - No. 1 Stanford, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 11 Arizona, No. 13 Washington and No. 22 UCLA.
Leading the Bruin women will be true freshman Alejandra Barrientos and sophomore Lena Nilsson. Barrientos, from San Lorenzo Valley HS in Felton, has been UCLA's top runner at every meet this season. During her prep career, she was a CA State cross country champion and National Footlocker participant and the CA State 1600m champion in 1999 and 2001.
Nilsson, from Vallentuna, Sweden, ran her first cross country race last Friday (Oct. 19), winning the CS Fullerton Invite II and leading the Bruin women to the team title. Last spring as a redshirt freshman, she established herself as one of UCLA's top young runners. An 800m performer, she placed ninth at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor and third at the 2001 Pac-10.
Joining Barrientos and Nilsson will be - junior Elaine Canchola, sophomore Valerie Flores, freshmen, Carolyn Shea and Lori Mann, along with sophomore Jessica Marr. Sophomore Tiffany Burgess will be the alternate.
"As a team, we're excited about our national ranking, but we feel that we're an even stronger squad than the performances we produced at our last two elite meets (Griak Invite, 8th, Sept. 29, Minneapolis, MN/NCAA Preview Meet, 7th, Oct. 13, Greenville, SC)," said Peterson, in his eighth season coaching the Bruin women.
"I feel that the team, for the first time all season, will be running at full strength," he said. "Alejandra (Barrientos) is fully recovered from the flu and with the addition of Lena Nilsson, our team is a very strong pack. Elaine (Canchola), Valerie (Flores) and Jessica (Marr) are all experienced runners and our two true freshmen, Carolyn Shea and Lori Mann, have had productive seasons. (MORE)
"We've set a goal to finish in the top three at the Pac-10," Peterson said. "If we meet that goal, we'll generate momentum going into the NCAA West Regional Qualifying meet (Nov. 10 at Tucson, AZ), where once again we are going to be tested in our effort to qualify as an at-large team to the NCAA."
Leading the Bruin men will be senior Bryan Green and true freshman Ben Aragon. The Bruin men's team enters the Pac-10 meet depleted by injury. Three of their top runners will not compete - sophomore Jon Rankin (low-grade right leg stress reaction), freshman Robert Kubler (foot injury) and senior Andrew Wulf (sprained ankle).
Along with Green and Aragon, running for the Bruins will be - freshman Puneet Mahan, junior Phil Young, senior Justin Patananan, freshman Seth Neumuller and freshman Reggie Oronoz. Freshman Bryan Bauerle is the alternate. The Bruin men will be facing five nationally-ranked teams at the conference meet - No. 2 Stanford, No. 13 Arizona, No. 19 Arizona State, No. 20 Oregon and No. 24 Washington. Last week, Washington State also received votes for the national Top 25.
Green, from Littlerock HS in Palmdale, has been UCLA's top runner for the last two seasons. Although slowed for the last month with the flu, Green did win the Sundodger Invite on Sept. 22 in Seattle and as a junior in 2000, he placed in the Top 10 of every regular season meet and qualified for the NCAA as a individual.
Aragon, from West Hills HS and Santee, has been UCLA's top finisher in three of the last four meets, including an individual victory on Friday at the Fullerton Invitational II, also leading the Bruin men to the team title.
"I've been encouraged by the recovery of Bryan Green," said Peterson, in his second season coaching both the Bruin men and women's cross country teams. "He's back to where he was earlier this season and at this time last year. He's looking to these postseason races with a lot of confidence.
"As a true freshman, this is all pretty new to Ben (Aragon)," he said. "Coming into UCLA, he didn't have a lot of experience running cross country at the highest level. But through hard work he is now one of the Top 5 freshmen in the conference. He could have an exciting postseason finish to what has already been a very successful season."
After Saturday's Pac-10 meet, the Bruins' next competition will be the 2001 NCAA West Region Qualifying meet, Saturday, Nov. 10 in Tucson, AZ. After that, on Monday, Nov. 19 in Greenville, SC, Furman University will host the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships.