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Cross-country hits the trail

The ASU cross-country teams will look to continue their run to the NCAA national meet this weekend, with the No. 13 men and the No. 16 women traveling to Springfield, Ore. to participate in the NCAA West Regional.

The men will enter the meet fourth in the West Region behind No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Portland, while the women enter the meet fourth in the West Region behind No. 1 Washington, No. 5 Oregon and No. 14 Stanford.

ASU needs to finish in the top two at the regional meet in order to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA National meet. If the Sun Devils do not finish in the top two, they can still receive an at-large bid.

ASU coach Louie Quintana isn’t focused on a specific finish for his team, rather focusing on just running well.

“Nothing is changing,” Quintana said. “We are going to compete hard, and if we do that, we will have done what is necessary to qualify for the national meet.”

Both the men and women finished third in the Pac-10 meet on Oct. 30, and Quintana has elected to run the top seven finishers from the conference meet on each side.

Quintana has three All-Conference selections in his lineup that will lead the Sun Devils. Seniors Brandon Bethke and Kari Hardt each earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors for the men and women, respectively, while junior Ben Engelhardt earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors.

Quintana expects big performances from Bethke and Hardt.

“Brandon and Kari both have the capabilities of being in the top five,” Quintana said. “I want them to run really controlled this weekend.”

Bethke has excelled in big meets so far this year, finishing second in the conference meet and sixth in the NCAA Pre-National meet.

Bethke and Engelhardt will lead a men’s team that entered the season unranked but has climbed all the way to its present No. 13 ranking. Running with them will be juniors Patrick Milloy, Jeff Helmer and Zeke Van Patten, sophomore Dylan Hatcher and true freshman Nick Happe.

The women’s team has taken a rockier road than the men’s team.

The women entered the season ranked No. 13 overall before falling out of the rankings completely. Unranked heading into the Pac-10 meet, the women jumped ahead of No. 12 Stanford and No. 17 UA to take third place. The impressive finish catapulted the women back into the rankings and places them in prime position to earn an NCAA berth for a 12th straight season.

Hardt, a returning All-American, has been the unquestioned leader of the team throughout the season, finishing seventh overall at the conference meet and 11th at the NCAA Pre-National meet. She will lead a group that includes seniors Allie Kieffer and Angela Spadafino, juniors Anna Sperry and Cherise McNair, sophomore Lindsay Prescott and redshirt freshman Kate Lydy.

For the second straight meet, Quintana highlighted Helmer and Milloy on the men’s side and Sperry and Prescott on the women’s side as X-factors.

“Those four need to be big for us,” he said.

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