Senior Leadership on Men's Cross Country Team

Oct. 10, 2002

Senior Warren Sutton

BANG! The gun sounds and the runners are off. Warren Sutton is part of the pack - with each step striving to be his best. Sutton is a senior on the Loyola Marymount cross country team. He's not just a senior though, he's the leader - the role athlete; the runner dedicated to making his final season his best. Sutton isn't just consumed by setting personal records; he wants the team to excel.

Sutton is back at LMU to run. In fact, he's taking just one class, a core necessary to graduate that also extends his university stay by one semester (an option that some athletes have if they didn't compete their freshman year). This class makes him eligible to compete and gives him an excellent opportunity to put everything into running. At the commencement of the fall semester he will be a LMU alum, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Sutton began at LMU in 1999, as a freshman from La Canada, Calif. He was a surfer, a football player - definitely not a runner.

Just as each race starts with a bang, so did Sutton's running career. Without any previous running experience or training, he decided to run the Los Angeles Marathon as a senior in high school. He managed to push through the pain, exhaustion and blisters to finish with a very modest time of just over five hours.

Some people might marvel at this athletic feat, others might wonder why, and others might even make the assumption that only crazy people would willingly put themselves through this kind of torture. And that belief gathered strength when he ran it again in 2000 - once more, relying completely on natural athleticism to take him to the finish line. And he discovered, once again, that this was perhaps the most painful thing a person could wilfully do.

After the race, Sutton vowed that the next time he ran the LA Marathon, he was going to be prepared for it. And so, beginning his sophomore year at LMU, Sutton joined the cross-country team. Since that first five-mile race his sophomore year, Sutton has taken over seven minutes off his time. In addition to the three LA marathons, he has also completed San Diego Rock'n Roll Marathon and the Huntington Beach Marathon in 2000. Currently, his best time stands at 3:21.

This spring, Sutton is looking to crush that time and finish under three hours. Another major event on his calendar is Ironman Idaho. At 21-years-of-age, Sutton has already competed in ten triathlons but is truly excited to enter his first full Ironman. As soon as cross-country season is over, Sutton will be incorporating swimming and cycling back into his training regimen. LMU head cross country coach Scott Guerrero sees a triathlete at heart and expects that in this he will really shine.

With the guidance of Guerrero, this 2002 team is looking to surpass last year's improvements. At the 2001 West Coast Conference Championships, the men finished sixth out of eight - their best finish since 1996. This season, the Lions set their sights to be among the top four squads. Sutton is confident that they're on the right track, and if they run to their potential, this goal will become a reality.

As for his individual effort, Sutton is looking to finish in the top 25 at the league meet on November 16th. This is a huge improvement from his "back of the pack" finishes at his first meet. Warren may not have the natural physique of a runner but he does have determination, perseverance and a work ethic that deserves respect and success. For Sutton, the comfortable rhythm of running is a way of relaxing. He also enjoys the challenge that every practise and race brings.

At the recent Manhattan Beach Old Hometown 10K Run, Sutton placed 20th out of more than 2,000 runners, clocking a 35:35.

Sutton is also grateful for the competition and motivation that his teammates provide. His enthusiasm is much admired by those around him. Not only does he infect the team with his positive attitude, his constant support provides valuable encouragement.

"(Warren) is always there to support us and he has been the senior leadership that we have so desperately needed on a team full of sophomores and freshmen," teammate Andrew Thompson said.

Thompson and fellow sophomore Bernie Ochoa, are taking it up a notch and setting a whole new pace for LMU. Ochoa has a pair of top 10 finishes this season at the San Diego and Aztec Invitationals, while Thompson paced the Lions at the Cal State Fullerton Season Opener.

"Success is not going to come to this team overnight," Sutton said. "We are all working hard and Coach is bringing in better and better runners each year. The program is on its way."

This optimism and foresight are two reasons that Sutton decided to return for one more semester at LMU and complete his fourth year of eligibility. In addition to a higher standard of running at LMU, there is a new aspect of teamwork and camaraderie.

"The team has developed over the past few years from being focussed on a couple of individuals to a committed group of talented runners," Sutton said.

With this team commitment comes close friendships and pre-race team dinners. Sutton says the progress the team has made is huge. The team dinners may seem irrelevant or ordinary but they are a symbol of the progress this team has made.

Although the marathons and triathlons may seem to be at the top of Sutton's priorities, he has not completely forgotten about other matters such as school and work. He is looking towards graduate school, most likely staying on the west coast, and focussing on kinesiology of exercise science. Currently, he is in the midst of working and being certified at a health club to become a personal trainer. What really sparks Sutton though is the idea of coaching.

Training under Guerrero has definitely inspired and motivated him to pass his excitement and knowledge about running along to others.

"Coach Guerrero has helped me find my passion for running," Sutton said. "He is more than a coach to me, he's also a mentor, a role model and a running partner."

"Warren is the backbone of their team," Guerrero said. "He is a dedicated, hard working runner that leads by example. He is living proof that dedication and hard work pay off."

The sacrifices Sutton made over the summer to return in top shape and by postponing his triathlon training, proved he was serious about making this year his best campaign and was willing to do anything to help the team. Sutton trained hard during the summer months to be ready. The months of July and August, he averaged 75-mile weeks, and one week even passed the 100-mile mark! He also travelled to Mammouth and Boulder, Colo., where he could gain experience running at higher altitudes.

Sutton's actions speak louder than any words.




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