Lions Open Season at Cal State Fullerton Invite Saturday

Sept. 1, 2006

Los Angeles, Calif. - The Loyola Marymount men's and women's cross country teams will look to finish the 2006 campaign exactly where they concluded the 2005 season - among the top programs in the West Coast Conference. The women's squad finished an all-time best second in the WCC, while the men's program is coming off a third place finish in conference, equaling its top mark in 15 years.

The women return three runners who earned all-conference recognition in 2005, including All-WCC first-team selections Laura Mickelson and Brittany Rezowalli. Both posted top-10 individual finishes at the 2005 WCC Championship. Mickelson and Rezowalli are joined by All-WCC honorable mention recipient Claudia Bishop.

Other top returners from last year's record-setting squad include senior captain Melani Hom, as well as seniors Kristen Gonzalez and Heather Rosas.

For the women, the 2005 second place team finish was the highest finish in LMU history. The 1985 squad previously held the best finish in LMU's WCC Championship history when it finished third. It also marked the lowest LMU team score ever, as the Lions finished with 58 points, besting the previous mark of 71 set that 1985 season. It was LMU's fastest team time (93:35), fastest team average (18:43), and season-best gap (0:49).

The women improved to the second place team finish from 2004's sixth place result. The 2005 preseason coaches' poll had predicted that the Lions would finish fifth. For his successes, Head Coach Scott Guerrero took home the WCC Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year accolade. Now entering his ninth season leading the Lions, Guerrero will look for another history-making season.

"We have great leadership returning on the women's side," Guerrero said. "We definitely took a huge step forward last year, and we are looking to those leaders to help us to another banner season. There will be quite a few new faces in the mix this year and it may take us a while to sort it all out, but our goal as always is to improve every year and this year won't be any different. We want to challenge for a conference title and that would be a first for LMU."

LMU finished third on the men's side in 2005, the first time the men have garnered a top-three finish since 1991. This season, the men's team returns key names in All-WCC honorees Lino Almeida and Reynaldo Barrera. Almeida was named to the All-WCC first-team after becoming LMU's highest-placing individual male ever at the 2005 WCC Championship with his fourth place finish. Prior to Saturday's race, the highest finish for an LMU male at the WCC Championships was fifth, a mark achieved twice by Tom Carlton in both 1981 and 1983. The last time an LMU male finished in the top-10 was in 1984 when Richard Vicain finished 10th.

Barrera's top-20 finish earned him honorable mention All-WCC recognition as well.

As with the women's Hom, the men also return senior captain Drew Haberkorn. Haberkorn and Barrera are the young team's lone seniors.

"We expect to have a very deep men's team this year," Guerrero said. "There are eight names on this year's roster who are new to the lineup, and every one of them is talented. We have four true freshmen who may take some time getting used to the longer distance at this level, but I would be surprised if we didn't see them contributing as we get deeper into the season. The other four are transfers who already have experience at this level. It is very hard for me to predict at this point, but I would not be surprised if we had as many as three newcomers in our top five this season. There is no doubt that this is the deepest men's team that I have ever seen in my eight years here, and I would venture to say that it is probably the deepest men's team in LMU history. It's going to be a fun ride this season."

Running a similar schedule to the 2005 itinerary that prepared them for the good showing at the WCC Championships, the Lions will open the season Saturday, September 1st with their most local race of the season in the Cal State Fullerton Invitational.

Other notable stops include the San Diego State Aztec Invitational and the Stanford Invitational.

The Crystal Springs Course in Belmont, Calif. will once again be the site of the WCC Championships. The 2006 conference championship is set for October 28.





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