SEASON PREVIEW: Depth and Experience

Senior Sheree Shea returns after a red shirt season in 2011.

Aug. 30, 2012

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LOS ANGELES -- For many coaches the departure of a seven-time All-American would cause one to worry about his or her future. Scott Guerrero is not one of those coaches. Despite the fact that two-time LMU Female Athlete of the Year Tara Erdmann exhausted her eligibility, the fifteen-year head coach believes this he has the most talented team of his tenure. Although he refers to this period as the "Post-Tara Era," Guerrero feels that the 2012 LMU Cross Country teams have the talent and the ability to compete for the West Coast Conference championship.



This year's teams are a mix of new talent and experienced runners. The women's team has seen nearly half of its roster turnover as six freshmen and two transfers join 10 returners from last year. Freshmen Nicole Forbes, Samantha Garcia, Evelyn Gonzalez, Melanie Joerger, Kelly Parsons, and Kelli Sugimoto compose one of the fastest incoming classes of runners to join the program. In addition, the Lions' women also add two transfers from UC Santa Barbara in Callie Mulgannon and Sarah Vitug, who will provide, "experience, a different perspective, and maturity having competed at this level," says Guerrero. The newcomers boost an already strong returning core led by seniors' Caroline Draper, Jessica Mumaugh, Cassandra Salazar, and Sheree Shea, two-time All-WCC first-team runner, who returns after a red shirt season.

All five of the men who scored for LMU at the West Coast Conference Championship last year return: Tyre Johnson, Weston Strum, Kevin Joerger, Sterling Lockert, and Drew Dalton. Joining the Lions' men are four freshmen: Lance Capel, Michael Duncan, Ryan Vargas, and Sam Worley, and one transfer from the University of Washington, Daniel Gibson, who will compete with LMU's scoring five and other returners for the top seven positions. The Lions have depth with both teams and the inter-squad competition should help the team grow and achieve. "I don't know exactly what the potential of the roster is, but I like what I see so far," said Guerrero. "I'm real excited about our roster this year."

The team held its annual training camp last week. For most of the past decade, the Lions conducted training camp at Mammoth Mountain in northern California. This year the coaching staff decided to hold camp in Los Angeles instead, mentioning logistics and the adjustment to the high altitude as reasons why. Guerrero commented, "because we've gotten larger (as a roster), and better, we decided to have it in L.A. this year." Holding camp locally benefitted the team by allowing the student-athletes to move in earlier, complete the beginning of the school year paperwork earlier and allowed the team to hold a time trial before the cross-country season, which it did not previously at Mammoth. "Camp went really well and we are prepared for the schedule," mentioned Guerrero.

This year's schedule involves more travel than the past few years for the Lions, somewhat due to changes with the WCC. The West Coast Conference Cross Country Championships will not be held in Belmont, Calif. for the first time since 1984. Instead, beginning this year, the Championships will rotate amongst conference member institutions. On October 27, the nine schools of the WCC will race in Portland, Ore. for the 2012 WCC Championships. Along with the Championships in Portland, LMU will travel there for a meet on Sept. 15 to get an opportunity to run the course prior to the Championships. The Lions will also travel to Fayetteville, Ark. for the annual Chile Pepper Invitational. The meet is unique in that the men will compete in a 10k race, which will provide a taste of the distance at which they will compete at the NCAA West Regional, which will be held in Seattle, Wash. on Nov. 9.

The 2012 LMU Cross Country team will begin its season this Saturday, Sep. 1 at the Mark Covert Classic hosted by Cal State Fullerton in Brea, Calif. beginning at 8:15 a.m. The Lions are poised to make a run for a conference championship and success at the NCAA Regionals and Championships. "We have, on paper, the best team we've ever had," responded Guerrero when asked about this year's expectations. "We have goals to, at least, equal the best year (of Guerrero's tenure). It's achievable."

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