Less than three years ago, USC junior Emebet Shiferaw was a standout teen-age runner in her native Ethiopia.
In her specialties, the 800 and 1,500 meters, she was a two-time junior national champion. She attended her local high school and ran for her junior national team, but what she really wanted was to run in the United States.
So, instead of returning home from the World Junior Games in Korea, Shiferaw came here, joining a former Ethiopian teammate and his U.S. coach at Riverside Community College.
"I was so scared, all I did was cry for the first two days I was here," said Shiferaw, who did not speak English when she arrived. "I wanted to go home. I thought that I had made a mistake."
Shiferaw's fear subsided when she began running at Riverside, where she quickly became the team's top distance runner.
"I'm glad that my coach got me to stay," she said. "Although I don't think that I did as well as when I ran in Ethiopia, I was able win the league championship two times."
Shiferaw did so well against her junior college competition that USC cross-country Coach Tom Walsh decided to offer her an athletic scholarship.
"She reminds me of the world-class African runners," said Walsh, who is in the second season of his second stint as coach of the Trojans. "Since we're just trying to get USC known as a cross-country program, we wanted her to be a key in getting things started."
In five races this season, Shiferaw has not been a disappointment, even though she was unable to train during the summer because of full class and work schedules.
"In order for me to be eligible [for the fall semester], I had to take three full classes at Riverside and also work [to have money]," she said. "I started this season not in good shape, but I'm getting better now."
Shiferaw struggled a bit in her first two races but won her last three.
"Cross-country is really not her specialty, but she has done well lately," Walsh said. "She has a tremendous amount of strength and endurance. Most cross-country runners start out fast and then slow toward the end. But not Emebet. She runs evenly throughout the race. She's very good on hills."
Ethiopia no longer considers her a citizen because she left without permission, so Shiferaw is determined to make it here. She now considers the 3,000 and 5,000 meters her best events, but also has taken to running cross-country.
"I'll be really good once we get to the track," said Shiferaw, who is majoring in accounting. "I'm a little behind [in cross-country] now, but I want to place in the top 10 in nationals."
UCLA sophomore Mebrahtom Keflezighi won the prestigious Iowa State Memorial Classic on Saturday against many of the nation's top cross-country runners. Keflezighi, the only UCLA runner entered, won in 26:19 on the same 5.3-mile course over which the the 1995 NCAA championships will be run.
Keflezighi has won two major invitational titles this season and is considered a top contender for the NCAA championship in the national meet Nov. 20.
The Loyola Marymount women's volleyball team continued its march through the West Coast Conference with weekend victories over Santa Clara and Saint Mary's to improve to 5-0 in league play and 13-3 overall.
The Lions defeated Santa Clara in 70 minutes, and in seven of their victories this season they have held opponents under a .100 attack mark. Opponents are hitting .160, and Loyola Marymount is hitting .275, 33 points higher than Pepperdine's second-place .242 mark.
The Lions are alone in first place, ahead of Pepperdine, which they defeated in five games on Oct. 7.
Mardell Wrensch, a two-time all-conference selection, has a .409 attack mark, which leads the league and is 13th nationally. Karissa Meith, who had a .528 hitting mark in the two weekend victories, is second in league hitting at .356, with Julie Greer third at .328.
Senior Jenny Johnson became the 10th UCLA player to have at least 20 kills and 20 digs in a volleyball match in the Bruins' five-game loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. Johnson had a season-high 23 kills and 20 digs and has 997 kills in her career. She is expected to top the 1,000-kill mark when the Bruins play at Stanford on Friday night.
Under second-year Coach Jim Millinder, Loyola Marymount's women's soccer team won the Hawaii tournament last week with victories over Hawaii and Montana. It was the first tournament title for the Lions, whose program was begun three years ago. Sophomore forward Heather Farr was named tournament MVP after scoring a goal and getting two assists.