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Cross-country earns trip to NCAA Championships

The ASU cross country team continued to perform well in significant meets this year, as the No. 13 men tied for fifth place and the No. 16 women finished in fourth place at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday in Springfield, Ore.

As a result, both teams have been invited to the NCAA Championship meet on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. as at-large selections.

One man and four women placed in the top 25 to earn All-West Region accolades.

The men garnered 155 points, tying them with Cal Poly for fifth place.

No. 1 Stanford (27 points), No. 7 Portland (84 points), No. 3 Oregon (109 points) and No. 17 Washington (120 points) made up the leader board at the end of the day.

Senior Brandon Bethke, who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors two weeks ago, finished seventh overall (30:50.49) to lead the men and earn All-West Region honors.

Junior Ben Engelhardt finished 26th overall (31:24.00), one place away from earning All-Region honors. A trio of juniors rounded out the final three scorers for ASU. Jeff Helmer finished 29th (31:25.49) Patrick Milloy took 36th (31:38.53), and Zeke Van Patten was 61st (32:17.28).

“We didn’t have our best race of the year; we know that we can be significantly better in nine days [at the NCAA Championships],” coach Louie Quintana said. “We should have run closer to Washington and Oregon honestly, so the men slightly underperformed but not to the extent that I thought we ran poorly.”

The women’s team saw a number of runners step up, as four runners finished in the top 25 to earn All-Region honors to help the team finish fourth (119 points) behind No. 1 Washington (25 points), No. 5 Oregon (66 points) and No. 14 Stanford (94 points).

Senior Kari Hardt, who has been the team’s top runner all season, was sick all week but still found a way to perform well, finishing 16th (21:22.55) to lead the women.

“She ran tough, probably the toughest race she has run in five years,” Quintana said. “The results don’t quite reflect her effort.”

With Hardt under the weather and finishing nine spots lower than she did at the Pac-10 meet, junior Anna Sperry and sophomore Lindsay Prescott ran their best races of the year in high level meets, with Sperry finishing 18th (21:26.31) and Prescott finishing 20th (21:28.76). The two runners had been identified as X-factors by Quintana the past couple of weeks and they delivered.

Senior Allie Kieffer finished 21st overall (21:30.58) to give the Sun Devils four runners among the top 21. Senior Angela Spadafino finished 45th (22:04.25) to round out the scoring.

Hardt, Sperry, Prescott and Kieffer earned All-Region honors for their performances.

“The women really stepped up, four girls in the top 21 was fantastic,” Quintana said. “Even though Stanford beat us, I feel that we are coming on at the right time.”

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