Women's Cross Country Ready to Improve on 1997 Season

Bruins return six of seven runners.

September 22, 1998

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA returns six of its top seven runners from 1997, when the Bruins placed fourth at the Pacific-10 Championship and fifth at the NCAA Western Regional meet.

The Bruins will be led by sophomore Julie Ott and junior Melinda George. Last spring in track as a true freshman, Ott placed 12th at the NCAA Outdoor 10,000m (personal best 34:58.20, No. 3 in school history) and at the Pac-10, she was fourth in the 10,000m. In cross country last fall, she was UCLA's No. 2 runner, placing 20th at the Pac-10 and 24th at the Western Regional. George is one of the most improved distance runners in the Pac-10. As a junior last spring in track, she qualified for the NCAA Outdoor in the 3000m. At the Pac-10 meet, she was sixth in the 5000m and ninth in the 3000m. In cross country last fall, George placed 36th at the Pac-10 meet and 47th at the NCAA Western Regional as the team's No. 5 runner. In 1998, she will be competing for a Top 3 position and as the team captain will play a major role in the success of this year's Bruin squad.

Joining the duo will be juniors Christina Bowen and Kara Barnard and sophomore Kelly Cohn. Bowen last spring in track made a late charge and finished fourth at the Pac-10 in both the 3000m and 5000m (personal-best 17.09.12). At the rate of her recent successes, Bowen has established herself as a breakthrough runner on this year's team. Cohn last fall as a redshirt freshman was UCLA's No. 3 runner in cross country, placing 28th at the Pac-10 and 26th at the Western Regional. Barnard last fall was 53rd at the Pac-10 and 72nd at the Regional. In track last spring at the Pac-10, she placed seventh in the 10,000m and 13th in the 5000m. Also contributing this season will be sophomore Katie Nuanes, redshirt freshman Tracy Cohn and junior Molly Mehlberg. Nuanes, as a true freshman last fall in cross country, placed 32nd at the Pac-10 and 50th at the Regionals.

Newcomers in 1998 include seven incoming freshmen - two-time national Foot Locker cross country qualifier Elaine Canchola, Kelly Grimes, Carolyn King, Jaclyn Nolan, Melissa Peralta, Gina Turpel and Ysanne Williams, who finished the 1998 prep season as the nation's No. 2 800m (2:09.21) performer - along with junior Gina Blanchard, a transfer from Cal Poly-SLO.

Gone from last season are Katherina Kechris and Kim Mortensen. Kechris, who last fall earned second-team Academic All-America honors (3.91 gpa, applied mathematics), was UCLA's No. 1 runner, placing 11th at the Pac-10 and 15th in the Regional. Mortensen, who in 1996 was the Track & Field News' Female High School Athlete of the Year as the nation's top prep distance runner, has had her career at UCLA cut short by injuries (1997, stress fracture of lower back; 1996, hamstring problems) and is taking a medical leave of absence.