Lions on Winter Break Following Successful Season

Dec. 25, 2008

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - As the calendar year winds down, the Loyola Marymount cross country teams have returned home for the winter break and are enjoying the afterglow of the most successful season in program history. At the West Coast Conference championships, head coach Scott Guerrero led a very young squad to the best combined finish in school history with both programs finishing in second place. The women lost to the University of Portland by a mere five points, while the 10-point margin of victory on the men's side was the slimmest in the 34-year history of the championship. Men's team champion Portland went on to finish seventh at the NCAA Championships.

For the second time in the last three years, the LMU women claimed the individual WCC Champion when sophomore Tara Erdmann ran away from the competition and earned the victory, thus becoming the fourth individual champion in LMU history. Erdmann won the title after finishing fifth last year and becoming LMU's first-ever WCC Freshman of the Year in 2007. The Lions tied a program record for All-WCC selections by putting three finishers in the top-10, including freshman Brieanna Delaney who finished eighth and earned WCC Freshman of the Year, the second in a row for the Lions.

The men's point total of 48 was the lowest in school history at the championship meet. The LMU men also had three All-WCC selections--a school record. The men were led by veterans Trevor Wiseman (senior, fifth place) and junior Brian McDonald (sixth place). However, the next five finishers for LMU were all frosh-soph, including freshman Phillip Benavides who finished seventh overall in his first time ever on the course. The men have been running the same 8,000 meter course since 1993 so year-over-year comparisons are possible. In the worst conditions ever seen at the championship (rain, wind, mud) the LMU men's team average of 26:33 is the second fastest all-time for LMU on the course. Last year's squad ran a school record 25:51 in much better conditions.



Head Coach Guerrero was awarded WCC Men's Coach of the Year honors. It was the third time in the last four years that Coach Guerrero was voted by his peers as a WCC Coach of the Year.

"It was a great day in so many ways but I have to say that one thing that really struck me when all was said and done is that even though the conditions were really terrible, I did not hear one single person ever complain," Guerrero said. "Everyone showed up to compete and that's exactly what they did. We've had to rely a lot on our youth this season and to be honest I wasn't sure how they would perform on this stage. Five of our top-seven on both sides were frosh-soph but they performed brilliantly. I really could not have asked for anything more out of any of them."

The Lions then continued on to the NCAA West Region meet hosted by Stanford University. The regional meet was without a doubt the biggest meet of the year for the young Lions with many of the top teams in the country competing in the region including the #1, #2 and #8 women's teams and the #1, #3 and #7 men's teams. Both the men's and women's teams were hoping for a top-15 finish. The Lions just missed out with the women's team finishing 16th overall and the men finishing in 17th. The men were once again led by the upperclassmen. McDonald ran at the No. 1 spot for the first time in his career, covering the 10k distance in 30:57: a new school record. He was closely followed by Wiseman in 31:03, which was also under the old school record of 31:15.

Erdmann once again led the ladies and finished in 14th place overall, thereby earning All-West Region honors, but more importantly, punching her individual ticket to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. Erdmann earned her first trip to the NCAA meet but it was the third straight trip for Coach Guerrero. 2008 grad Laura Mickelson made the trip in both 2006 and 2007, becoming the first-ever NCAA qualifier in LMU women's cross country history.

"There were some definite bright spots capped by Tara's qualifying for the national championships," Guerrero said. "We were disappointed in our overall team finish because obviously it was not what we had hoped for. Looking back on it now though, I can see that our youth finally caught up to us. Tara is only a sophomore but it was her second time competing at the regional meet and she did well after underperforming the previous year. Brian and Trevor are both veterans and had our highest individual finishes ever at this meet. Our numbers two through five on the women's side were all freshmen while three through five on the men's side were true freshmen as well. No question this was a ridiculously competitive meet for us. Seven men's teams and four women's teams from our region went to nationals so the majority of our kids had never seen a meet of this quality. The most telling stat for me was the fact that the Portland women finished fifth in the region while we finished 16th. And this was a team that we had almost beaten two weeks earlier. The difference is that Portland's No. 5 scorer is a freshman while the other four are all juniors or seniors. It all comes down to experience and that is what we are lacking. But we will get there and there is no doubt that this meet was worth a lot of experience points for us. Just wait until next year."

Erdmann then traveled to Terre Haute, Indiana where she finished 78th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Her 6k time of 21:01 was the fastest ever run by an LMU athlete at the NCAA meet.

"Tara really ran an exceptional race especially considering that it was her first time to make it to the big dance. The championship was hosted by Indiana State University and has been run on the same course for the last several years so year-to-year comparisons are possible. Tara's time of 21:01 would have placed her seventh in the meet in 2006 and 38th in 2007. Obviously conditions can change year over year but it's still clear that the race was incredibly competitive this year. It was a great ending to a great season."


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