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Cross-country seeks strong finish at NCAA Championships

Both ASU cross-country teams will compete in the NCAA Championship meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday afternoon in an effort to bring a trophy back to ASU.

The No. 22 men are making their sixth appearance in the championship meet in program history and their first appearance since 2007.

The No. 17 women are making their 12th consecutive appearance and are looking to earn their third trophy in five seasons.

The top four teams will earn a trophy while the top 40 individual runners will earn All-America honors.

ASU coach Louie Quintana isn’t too worried about the rankings and thinks a top-10 finish is possible for the men.

“The goal for the men is to be in the top 10 — we are ranked 22nd, so some people might say that’s unrealistic and I don’t feel that way,” Quintana said. “If you look at the rankings, New Mexico is ranked 12th, and we’ve beaten them twice this year head up. It’s not like we’re not running well.

Washington is ranked 15th, and they are really good, but we beat them by 30 points at the Pac-10 meet.”

Leading the way for the men is First Team All-Pac-10 and All-West Region senior Brandon Bethke.

The transfer from Wisconsin has proven himself to be one the nation’s elite runners this year, finishing sixth at the Pre-National meet and second in the conference meet.

Following Bethke will be junior Ben Engelhardt, a Second Team All-Pac-10 selection this year.

Rounding out the lineup for ASU will be juniors Jeff Helmer, Patrick Milloy and Zeke Van Pattern, sophomore Dylan Hatcher and true freshman Nick Happe. Sophomore Daniel Lovell will travel with the team as an alternate.

Setting the tone early in the race is key for ASU, Quintana said.

“There are certain things that they’re going to have to do in the early stages of the race to put the pieces together at the end of the race,” he said. “It’s all a plan that has to fit so they have to understand that early.”

The women are looking for their third trophy finish in the past five years. The team took fourth place in both 2005 and 2007 and has three runners back from that 2007 team.

Two returning All-American seniors, Kari Hardt and Ali Kielty, were on that 2007 team and will lead the way for ASU this year.

Senior Angela Spadafino was also a member of that trophy team.

The women are also aiming for a top-10, Quintana said.

“Certainly our goal is to be a trophy team, but really our focus is to be in the top 10,” the coach said. “Right now it’s pretty top heavy — the top 5 or 6 teams are really, really good, and it’s going to be difficult to score that low number at the national meet.”

Hardt, senior Allie Kieffer, junior Anna Sperry, and sophomore Lindsay Prescott each earned All-Region honors and will be the top four runners for ASU.

Joining them will be Kielty, Spadafino, and redshirt freshman Kate Lydy. Sophomore Kauren Tarver will be the alternate.

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