Spartans host WAC cross country championships this weekend

Coach Augie Argabright is looking
for big things from his runners
at the WAC Championships.
DENVER - The 2003 edition of the WAC Cross Country Championships will be held at the Crystal Springs International Cross Country Course in Belmont, Calif., Nov. 1, hosted by San Jose State University.

The women will get things started, competing in a 5k race at 11:45 a.m. (PT). The men, who compete in an 8k, will start at 12:30 p.m. There are 10 teams that compete on the women's side, while the men sponsor seven teams. The SMU men brought home its second title in the past three years in 2002, while the Rice women won its first since 1999.

WAC cross country features some of the finest runners in the nation. For the men, Bashir Ibrahim of UTEP, the 2001 and 2002 WAC champion, has moved on leaving the door open for a new victor. UTEP will be looking to sophomore Mircea Bogen and senior Dirk de Heer to regain the UTEP tradition. The pair have led the Miners all season, including a second-place finish by Bogden at the Chili Pepper Invite.

The Miners are looking to get back their winning ways, as they have 14 titles to lead all teams in the WAC. UTEP has the WAC's best streak, making a great run of 10-straight from 1973-83. Some of the top returners for this season's meet will be first-team all-WAC members, Dalibor Balgac of SMU who finished fourth a season ago and de Heer, who crossed two seconds behind Balgac, taking fifth. Soeren Linder of SMU, the WAC's "Freshman of the Year" in 2002, finished 15th, leaving him one position short of making the conference's second-team.

San Jose State University head coach Augie Argabright is looking forward to hosting the WAC Championships for the first time in school history. According to Argabright, the men have never beaten a team in the WAC Championships before. "This year 's teams is one of our better teams," said Argabright. "I think this year's team could possibly beat some opponents in the WAC Championships and if they do that it would be major considering we don't have a track and limited scholorships."

On the women's side, defending champion Karin van Rooyen of SMU is on pace to take home another crown. She posted a time of 17:01 in 2002 at her home 5k course in Dallas, the best since 1998, when BYU's Maggie Chan crossed at 16:54. van Rooyen has finished in the top three at each event she has competed in this season, including a third-place finish at the Chili Pepper Invite, which played host to over 250 athletes. She won't be the only Mustang in contention for this year's title, freshman Rachel Collins has five top-10 finishes this year.

Nevada has emerged as one of the best teams in the nation, coming 28th in the Oct. 20 FinishLynx Cross Country poll. The Wolf Pack brought home their biggest win ever, grabbing first at the Chili Pepper Invite with more than 30 teams. They are led by senior Abigail McAllister, junior Emma Garrard and sophomore Jenna Huber. The three have been the Pack's top finishers all season, with McAllister taking ninth at the Chili Pepper Invite. Rice is the only other team to capture two WAC titles, besides BYU who owns the first nine. Rice also won in 1999.The duo of Tanya Wright and Katie Gorry look to lead the Owls to their second-straight title.

Six of the seven all-WAC first team members from 2002 are back. van Rooyen, the 2002 "Athlete of the Year" and WAC champion, leads the way. Hawai'i's Victoria Chang heads up the list for the Wahine, while Garrard looks to top her fifth-place performance. UTEP's Corine van Beek notched a fourth-place finish in 2002, Boise State's Robin Wemple was sixth, while 2002 "Freshman of the Year," Gorry was seventh.

The Spartan's top-three runners are junior Ashleigh Nebeker, freshman Tiffany Hall, and junior Robyn Stevens. "It would be a huge achievement if our women can finish in the top-five," said Argabright.

For complete information on WAC Cross Country, visit www.wacsports.com or contact Joe Menaugh at (303) 799-9221 (jmenaugh@wac.org). Results for each event will be posted when final, immediately following each event.