Sept. 9, 2003
Coach Eric Peterson returns the top-three UCLA runners from the 2002 Pac-10 (8th) and NCAA West Regional (8th) meets. Ben Aragon, Erik Emilsson and Jon Rankin will all enter their junior cross country season and look to lead a young Bruin squad.
UCLA's top returner is junior Aragon (Santee, CA/West Hills), who was the Bruins' No. 2 runner at the Pac-10 (31st) and NCAA West Regional (44th) Championships. He was the top Bruin finisher and a Top-10 finisher on four different occasions. In indoor track, he set the school record in the mile at 4:00.38 and qualified for the NCAA Championships. Outdoors, he ran team leading times of 1:48.48 (800m), 3:46.95 (1500m) and 14:34.16 (5000m).
After returning from leg stress fractures incurred during the 2001-02 school year, Rankin (Spring Valley, CA/Monte Vista) was the No. 3 UCLA runner at the Pac-10 (45th) and NCAA West Regional (52nd) Championships. In track, he ran a personal best 3:47.66 in the 1500m. He capped off the 2003 season by placing sixth in the 1500m at the NCAA West Regional in 3:48.34 and ninth at the Pac-10 Championships.
The top newcomer to last year's team was Erik Emilsson (Bjarred, Sweden/Polhemskolan). After transferring to UCLA from Tulane last fall, Emilsson was the top Bruin finisher at both the Pac-10 (24th) and NCAA West Regional (34th) Championships. In track, Emilsson was the Bruins' top steeplechaser. He ran a season best 8:50.32 and qualified for the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA Championships, he placed 24th (8:56.59) in the steeplechase qualifying. In 2003, he ran personal bests of 1:51.31 in the 800m and, on August 12, he ran 3:48.44 (1500m) in Malmo, Sweden. Emilsson also ran personal bests of 4:10.41i (mile), 8:12.63i (3000m) and 14:48.98 (5000m).
"The strength of our team will be the returning trio of Ben Aragon, Jon Rankin and Erik Emilsson," said Peterson. "All three are healthy. They are now upper classmen with a lot of experience in both cross country and track. We look to these three to not only lead the way for our team, but to develop a core of strength that we haven't had in the program in the past few years."
Joining Aragon, Emilsson and Rankin will be returners junior Puneet Mahan (Norwalk, CA/Norwalk) and sophomores Nick DeFelice (Sacramento, CA/Jesuit), Martell Munguia (Sacramento, CA/Woodcreek) and Mohammed Qazi (W. Torrance, CA/W. Torrance). Last season, Mahan, Munguia and Qazi competed at both the Pac-10 and regional championships. And, DeFelice competed at the Pac-10 meet.
Also returning from last season are juniors Nick Thornton (Vista, CA/Rancho Buena Vista) and Reggie Oronoz (Pasadena, CA/Loyola). Thornton competed in five invitationals and ran a season best 26:24.70. In track, he ran a season best 1:49.42 in the 800m. Thornton placed second at the NCAA West Regionals and qualified for the NCAA Championships, where he tied for 20th overall. Oronoz also competed in five invitationals, including the Pac-10 Championships.
New to the Bruin squad this year will be redshirt freshman Chad Galbreath (Mammoth Lakes, CA/Mammoth) and true freshmen Micky Cobrin (Buffalo Grove, IL/Stevenson) and Austin Ramos (Sacramento, CA/Jesuit). Galbreath, who redshirted the 2002 cross country season, was a two-time All-State and four-time CIF Southern Section honor winner. Cobrin placed seventh at the Illinois State championships, leading Stevenson HS to a second place finish. He was also conference and region champ as a senior. Ramos placed 11th at the California State Championships as a senior, leading Jesuit to the State title. He placed 14th at the Footlocker Western Regional. As a junior, he was sixth at the state championships and placed 36th at the Footlocker Western Regional.
"We have an exciting group of freshman athletes that we expect to make an immediate impact with the cross country team," said Peterson. "Notably redshirt freshman Chad Galbreath, who had a strong 2003 track season, providing the depth that we needed in the 5000m and steeplechase."
"Equally exciting are true freshmen Austin Ramos and Micky Cobrin, who ranked among the nation's best in the 3200m in track and had very fine cross country seasons last year," said Peterson. "It is significant to note that they both come from winning cross country programs. We need that kind of attitude and experience on our team."