The Loyola Marymount men's and women's cross country teams concluded their 2000 racing season on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the NCAA District 9 Regional Championships in Fresno, Calif. Sophomore Eddie Giron paced the three-man LMU contingent at the regionals for a second consecutive year, finishing the 10K race in 36:30. On the women's side senior Traci Pantuso closed out her career by pacing a group of four Lion entrants in a time of 24:16. The Lions raced in the NCAA Regionals as individuals and did not have their results factored into a team time.
The Lions will tentatively begin their 2001 season on Saturday, Sept. 3 at the Cal State Fullerton Invitational.
Going Out With a Bang
The LMU men's and women's cross country teams featured a total of nine senior runners, a number of whom saved their finest performances for the strech run of their collegiate careers. Michael Cortez, the top Lion finisher at the WCC Championships over the past three years, posted a personal best time of 27:48 at this year's conference meet. While Mark Siegfried struggled with an injury at the WCC's, he was Loyola Marymount's most consistent runner throughout the season, and lowered his lifetime best by well over a minute to 27:42 at the UC Riverside Invitational. On the women's side senior Traci Pantuso enjoyed her finest finish ever at the WCC Championships (20:29), which was also her top time in 2000. The conference meet also saw Kristi Patton notch a career best of 22:33 and Holy Turney run her fastest race of the year at 22:48.
Future Remains Bright
Despite the aforementioned nine athletes leaving the Lions' program, prospects for a strong season in 2001 - and beyond - appear bright. Junior transfer Jenny Atkinson made an immediate impact in her first year at the Division I level, leading the LMU women in nine races, including a personal best performance of 19:48 at the UC Riverside Invite. Sophomore Erin Junkin, in just her first season running cross country competitively, showed flashes of her potential by leading all Lions at the West Coast Conference Championships in a lifetime best of 20:20, good for 21st place. Meanwhile freshmen Heather Montgomery and Maria Degitz each ran personal bests this season en route to positioning themselves on the Loyola Marymount top-five list. Sophomore Eddie Giron has proven himself to be a prime-time performer over the past two campaigns, saving his top times for the postseason. The Los Angeles native ran the fastest race of his life (27:52) at the WCC's, and then showed his strength at the 10K distance by pacing LMU at the NCAA Regionals for a second straight year. Two other underclassmen - junior Joey Hawkins and sophomore Justin Goodkind - also ranked among the Lions' top-five runners in 2000.
Head Coach Scott Guerrero has made a habit of converting athletes from other sports into solid cross country runners, and appears to have struck gold with sophomore Erin Junkin, who competed for the LMU rowing team in 1999-00. The Portland, Ore., native lowered her time in each of her five 5K races, culminating with a team-leading 20:20 showing at the WCC's. Other than former all-conference performer Malinali Martinez, that ranks as the fastest Lion time at the conference meet since 1991.
2000 Season Highlights
Seven Lion racers (two men, five women) ran new personal bests at the UC Riverside Invitational on Sept. 23...Mark Siegfried won the men's 18-23 year old division at the Manhattan Beach 10K (Oct. 7), finishing ninth overall in a field of nearly 2,000 runners at 34:47...Jenny Atkinson's eighth place effort at the USD Invitational was the highest finish by an LMU runner in 2000...Atkinson placed 13th of 1,808 at the Manhattan Beach race, while Traci Pantuso finished right behind her.
LMU Head Coach Scott Guerrero has concluded his third year as the leader of the Lions. Guerrero has brought change and enthusiasm to the program, instituting an off-season training regimen for the first time in school history. A 1990 graduate of Tulane University, Guerrero also earned a master's degree in education from Cal State Dominguez Hills.