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UCLA Women Could Get Stanford on the Run

October 31, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Chasing down Stanford has been a goal for the UCLA women's cross-country team in recent years, and the Bruins have been slowly closing the gap.

UCLA is having a strong season, with victories over the top-ranked Cardinal and second-ranked Brigham Young in invitational meets, while running without two of its top runners.

Senior Lena Nilsson, the Bruins' best runner a year ago, sat out this season to concentrate on preparing for the track season and sophomore Alejandra Barrientos is recovering from a back injury she sustained earlier this year.

UCLA has been ranked as high as seventh and is 15th heading into the Pacific 10 Conference championships Saturday at Washington State in Pullman.

"I feel better about this team than any in the 11 years that I have been here," UCLA Coach Eric Peterson said. "People can say that Stanford was thin the day we beat them, but we had to remind ourselves that our two top athletes were not running either."

Stanford is expected to repeat its men's and women's titles. The Bruin men hope to improve on their last-place finish last year when UCLA hosted the meet.

The women, led by senior Valerie Flores, sophomore Jenna Timinsky and freshmen Ashley Caldwell and Alison Costello, hope to push Stanford for the title.

Flores, a former City Section champion from San Pedro High, finished third in the Stanford Invitational 6,000-meter race and eighth in the Pre-National meet at Waterloo, Iowa, site of this year's NCAA meet.

"It was time for the kids we recruited in this program that were more distance-oriented to shine during a time in the year where they should be shining," Peterson said. "Valerie accepted that challenge. And our freshmen have really been responsible for giving our team some national respect."

Temperatures in Pullman are expected to be in the 30s and the race site, the Washington State University Golf Course, is considered one of the toughest in the conference.

The conditions will be a stark contrast to the high temperatures and poor air quality that have limited UCLA's training most of this week.


Ralphy Holmes, Cal State Fullerton's All-Big West guard, has been expelled for the 2003-04 academic year after his conviction on misdemeanor auto theft and hit-and-run charges.

Holmes was sentenced to 60 days in jail Oct. 7 in a pretrial hearing at North Orange County Justice Center. He has one more year of athletic eligibility and can reapply for admittance to the school next year.


The Concordia basketball team, which won its first NAIA men's national championship last season, will start the season where it left off. The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in a preseason poll of NAIA representatives, with 11 of the 12 first-place votes.

Concordia defeated Mountain State (W.Va.) in the NAIA title game and will face it again Nov. 14 in the Cougar Classic at Azusa Pacific. Azusa, defending Golden State Athletic Conference champion, is ranked fourth.


Sarah Bouchard became the second consecutive Cal State Los Angeles runner to win the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. cross-country championship when she won the women's 6,000-meter race with a time of 21 minutes 21.6 seconds at Bidwell Park in Chico.



This Week


* Cal State Northridge at No. 19 UC Santa Barbara, 7 tonight -- Northridge (12-7, 8-3 in the Big West) had its seven-game winning streak stopped by No. 8 UCLA Tuesday night. Santa Barbara (13-6, 9-2) leads the Matadors by one game in the conference standings, and UC Irvine and Long Beach State by two games.


* USC at No. 3 UCLA, 1 p.m. Sunday -- UCLA (12-1-3, 5-0-1 in the Pac-10) hasn't lost to USC since 1998 but the Trojans took the Bruins to double overtime in the NCAA tournament last year. Shannon Cross' two goals gave USC a key 3-1 win over No. 18 Arizona State last Sunday.

* Long Beach State at UC Riverside, 1 p.m. Sunday -- Both teams are seeking spots in the four-team Big West postseason tournament, which resumes after a five-year hiatus. Third-place Riverside (10-5-3, 4-2-1) has steadily improved in its three-year history. Long Beach (8-8-0, 4-3-0) fell into a tie for fourth with a 3-2 overtime loss to UC Irvine on Tuesday.


* No. 4 UCLA at No. 3 Stanford, 10 a.m. Saturday -- The Bruins (12-4, 3-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) are on a six-game winning streak. Stanford (12-3, 1-1), led by All-American Tony Azevedo, defeated UCLA, 7-4, in the Nor-Cal tournament earlier this month.


* Big West championships at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, men's 8,000-meter race, 8:30 a.m.; women's 6,000-meter race, 9:30 a.m. Saturday -- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is expected to claim the men's title while Idaho is looking to defend its women's championship. Long Beach State, which finished third in the Arizona State Invitational, could contend on the men's side.

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