West Coast Conference title on the line this weekend at Crystal Springs Course.
Oct. 26, 2005
Los Angeles, Calif. - LMU will participate in its first West Coast Conference Championship of the 2005-06 academic year when the cross country programs head to Northern California this weekend. The WCC Cross Country Championship is set for Saturday, October 29, with the men's race beginning at 9:00 a.m. and the women following at 9:45 a.m. For the first time in LMU history, fans can follow all of the action from the championship as it happens, as it will be broadcast live over the internet on Lions' All-Access at www.LMULions.com.
Eighth-year Head Coach Scott Guerrero and the Lions have had their eyes on this race since the conclusion of last season's competition that saw the men finish fourth and the women sixth. Unlike other sports that have an entire conference season, in cross country, the fate of the conference standings rests entirely on this one championship race.
LMU has spent the 2005 season preparing and building for Saturday. At the Stanford Invitational on September 24, the LMU women finished 12th of 33 teams. Identical twins Sara and Laura Mickelson led the Lions in 22:12 and 22:13 respectively over the 6000m distance and both finished in the top-20 overall. Each of the top three runners was under the LMU record for the 6K distance. The team time was equal to that of eighth-place Cal, with other mostly nationally-ranked public schools, with complete spring track programs, finishing ahead of LMU.
The LMU men finished 21st of 32 teams, but each of the seven Lions recorded a career best mark for the 8000m distance. The Lions were led by sophomore Lino Almeida, whose time of 25:41 ranks number two on the all-time list for the 8K distance, behind only the late Adam Bacon, who ran 25:34 at the same meet last year.
"What I am most happy with is the fact that as a team, we ran a faster time than last year at this same meet," Guerrero said. "When we lost Adam last summer, I think a lot of folks probably wrote us off, but we have known all year that we would still be a better team than last year. This race though was the first time that we proved it."
After the competitive Stanford Invitational, the LMU teams had two weekends off until traveling north again on October 15 for the Cal Poly Invitational. Here, the women once again showed their progress, this time taking second place, behind only UC Irvine, and recording a new school record team time for the 5000m distance. The Lions ran 92:42, or an average of 18:32 for the scoring five.
Sophomores Sara Mickelson (18:01) and sister Laura Mickelson (18:09) led the Lions again, and both recorded top-10 finishes. Fellow sophomore Brittany Rezowalli (18:27) was not far behind and finished in the top-15 overall. Senior Lara Del Rio (19:02) and freshman Abby Fall (19:03) rounded out the top five. Five of the Lions' top seven finishers were either freshmen or sophomores.
The men also continued to improve, with the top five runners averaging 27:52 on the toughest course the Lions have faced. Again, this was an improvement versus 28:05 last year on the same course with Bacon leading the Lions at the top spot. Almeida (26:57) was again the leader here. Juniors Reynaldo Barrera (27:52) and Drew Haberkorn (27:53) were next across the line. Freshman Sean Sisk (28:16) and senior Kenny Arehart (28:21) rounded out the top five scorers. Again, the future looks bright as four of the top seven were freshmen or sophomores, with only one senior in the bunch.
The Lions now have all attention focused on this weekend's WCC Championship meet. Both LMU squads were picked to finish fifth of the eight conference teams in the pre-season coaches' poll, but the Lions' are aiming to prove their opponents wrong. So far this season, the women have only fallen to Portland and have not yet faced Gonzaga or Santa Clara. LMU has defeated everyone else at least once this season, including San Francisco, who was picked to finish second at the championship meet. The women's all-time highest finish at the WCC Championship was third place, back in 1985.Earlier this week, Sara Mickelson became the first Lion to ever earn the WCC Cross Country Athlete of the Month selection.
For the men, the goal since the beginning of the season has been third place or better. An LMU men's team has not finished third since 1991, and never under Guerrero, who joined the Lions in 1998.
With the excitement and possibilities of this weekend's championship, fans will want to follow all of the action as it happens on Lions' All-Access. LMU will offer a live internet audio broadcast, available at www.LMULions.com, beginning with pre-championship action at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.
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