The 2002 Big West Cross Country Championship is set for Saturday, November 2 on the UC Riverside Agricultural Operations Course. The women's 5,000 meter event begins at 8:30 a.m. and the men's 8,000 meter event takes place at 9:45 a.m.
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Utah State, Cal Poly and defending champion UC Santa Barbara are expected to be the favorites at the conference meet. The Aggies are ranked 28th in the nation in the Mondo Men’s National Poll and seventh in the United States Cross Country Association Mountain Region Poll. The Mustangs are rated fifth in the USCCA West Region Poll and have been in the national top 30 at different times during the season. The USCCA has tabbed the Gauchos eighth in its latest West Region poll.
The Aggies return three runners who finished in the top 10 of last year’s conference championship in Mitch Zundel, Mike Nielsen and Steve Prescott. Nielsen has been selected Big West Cross Country Male Athlete of the Week twice this season, including after his 21st-place finish at the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 19.
The Mustangs are led by freshman and two-time Big West Cross Country Male Athlete of the Week Andy Coughlin. Coughlin was the top Big West finisher at a preseason meet held on the UCR “Ag-Ops” course on Sept. 21, crossing the finish line in third in a time of 24:37.50. Cal Poly also returns senior David Jackson, who finished fourth overall at last year’s conference meet.
The Gauchos feature one top 10 finisher from the 2001 Big West Championships in J.T. Service. Service recently led a pack of Gauchos at the NCAA Pre-Nationals by finishing in 62nd place.
Another one of the contenders to take home top individual honors is Idaho’s Jan Eitel, a three-time honoree of the Big West Cross Country Male Athlete of the Week.
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Cal Poly, the two-time defending Big West champion, will be challenged mightily by UC Irvine, Idaho, UC Santa Barbara and Utah State.
The Anteaters, Vandals and Gauchos are ranked sixth, seventh and ninth in the Women’s Intercollegiate Cross Country Association West Region poll, respectively. The Aggies have been ranked in the Mountain Region top 10 for a majority of the season.
The Anteaters are led by Amanda Armstrong, a two-time Big West Cross Country Female Athlete of the Week. UC Santa Barbara returns the 2001 Big West Female Athlete of the Year in Katie Appenrodt and also features a top freshman in Desiree Leek.
Meanwhile, Utah State is led by Lida Clapier and Audrey Golighty, who finished fourth and eighth at the preseason meet held by UCR on Sept. 21.
Perhaps the top contender for the individual title is Idaho’s Letiwe Marakurwa. She has earned four Big West Athlete of the Week awards this season.