In early October, the Georgetown men's cross-country team received its first number one ranking in school history. Today, the team hopes to achieve an even bigger milestone when it races at the National Collegiate Athletic Association cross-country championships at Battlefield State Park in Prairie Grove, Ark. -- and that is to bring home its first national championship.

The Hoyas, who finished seventh last season, have their best chance to surpass the school's previous top performance in the championships, a fourth-place finish in 1965. Their elevation to the top spot marked the first time since 1990 that Arkansas was not ranked first in the nation.

But the men's team will have its hands full when the 10,000-meter race gets under way today, as at least four teams are capable of winning it all.

Wisconsin, which knocked Georgetown from the top spot in the rankings last week, is very tough, as is No. 3 Iowa State, possibly the most dangerous with the potential to place five runners among the top 20.

However, the team to beat is still No. 4 Arkansas, the host college. The Razorbacks are the four-time defending champions and will attempt to become the first men's team in NCAA history to win five straight titles.

"We need a tremendous team effort to win {today}," said Hoyas men's coach Frank Gagliano, whose team has qualified for the championships nine of the past 12 seasons. "We have to do the same thing we have been doing all season -- and then turn the intensity up."

The ninth-ranked women's team, which has finished third the past two seasons -- only eight points behind in 1992 -- is the only program in the country that has finished in the top 10 the past six seasons.

While the women should continue their streak, it will be difficult to unseat No. 1 Villanova, which has dominated women's cross-country by winning the past five team titles.

"We think we are pretty good," said Georgetown women's coach Ron Helmer. "If we have no breakdowns we have the type of team that is capable of doing something special. When you run at that level anything can happen."

All-Americans Caryn Landau and Joline Staeheli are among the top contenders in the 5,000-meter race.

The men are led by experienced upperclassmen in two-time all-American Andy Downin, who finished 27th in 1993 and 17th in 1992, and Ian Urbina, a former All-Met from St. Albans who was an all-American in 1992, but redshirted last season. Both are capable of giving the Hoyas their first top 10 finish since Olympian Steve Holman ran 10th in 1991, and with some luck could bring Georgetown its first individual winner since Charlie Capozzoli in 1952.

Junior Brook Kintz and sophomores Brendan Heffernan and Jerry Pullins round out a talented five that helped Georgetown win its first Big East championship since 1989, its second straight IC4A title and the District II championship, which includes schools along the Atlantic coast.

Some say Georgetown will be hard pressed to duplicate its performance at the Arkansas Invitational on Oct. 1, when it narrowly defeated Arkansas, which was without its second-best runner, 90-99.

And the competition still thinks very highly of Georgetown.

"They are very good, definitely one of the favorites," said Arkansas men's coach John McDonnell, who has won a combined 22 national championships in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. "They have the best depth from runner one through seven of any team in the country."

Nevertheless, the men will head to the starting line today ready to challenge for a national title and hoping for a break to put it on top.

"Cross-country is a November sport," said Gagliano. "We have matured a whole lot since the start of the season and I think we will do very well."