The University of La Verne men's and women's cross country teams set their sights on the 2011 SCIAC Championships, held Saturday at Prado Park in Chino. At stake is the overall conference team title along with All-Conference recognition for the Top 20 finishers in each race.
La Verne placed fourth at the SCIAC Multi-Dual meet held two weeks ago at La Mirada Park. Head coach Mike Atwood said that the meet two weeks ago was a wide-open affair in which there were several shifts that in the latter stages that impacted the final results. "The scores didn’t accurately reflect the drama of the race," Atwood said. "There was lots of movement in the last ½ mile which definitely impacted the final standings."
The conference is formidable with four conference squads ranked among the Top 10 in the latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) West Region Poll. Occidental, Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps rank 1-2-3 in the rankings with La Verne holding the No. 10 position.
Atwood also believes that if the Leopards maintain focus for this weekend's SCIAC Championships, Our theme for the entire year has been to stick to the fundamentals, and we won’t stray from that philosophy.
Though the men's field is extremely deep, the man everyone will be chasing is Occidental senior Eric Kleinsasser, who is a three-time champion at the SCIAC Championship meet who also took top honors at this year's SCIAC Multi-Duals.
Leading the pack for the Leopards will be the duo of Alex Forbess and AJ Licon made history at the SCIAC Multi-Duals by placing third and fifth, respectively, at the meet. It marked the first time in program history in which two Leopard runners placed in the Top 5 at a conference multi-dual meet.
Other Leopards who should also factor into the race will be the likes of Matt Sustayta, Sean Kusick, Alberto Acosta among a talented group of runners.
“We need to have five runners place in the Top 5 to beat the teams in front of us and I believe they are capable of doing so. As a group we are much better runners than a year ago, but it’s about having the confidence to carry out the plan."
Start time for the men's competition is 9:15 am.
The Leopards finished seventh at the Multi-Duals and look to improve upon that effort on Saturday. Our challenge is to rise to the occasion. We’d like to take the success of the last couple of years and build to that.
Almost every school in the field has a depth of talent, with Pomona-Pitzer's Annie Lydens, the first-place finisher from the Multi-Duals and an All-American in track & field, a strong favorite among the individuals.
Leading the way for the Leopards is Katie Barrese, who placed 11th at last season's conference championships to earn Second Team All-SCIAC accolades. She also led La Verne with a 17th place effort at the SCIAC Multi-Duals two weeks ago. "Katie’s goal is to improve on last year’s finish and repeat as an All-Conference performer," Atwood said. "She’s been adjusting to a different style of racing and if she can stay controlled in the middle phases of the race she’ll be successful."
Micaela Castillo has been consistent throughout this season and is looking to earn All-Conference honors. She recently finished 31st overall at the Multi-Duals. "As a senior, this is Micaela's last SCIAC Championship meet so we hope that she concludes on a high note."
Andrea has also sparked the Leopard contingent of late as she finished strong at the five-kilometer Titan Invitational last week in Fullerton, as well as a 37th place effort in the Multi-Dual meet.
Additionally, the presence of Sydney Rose should also bolster the Leopard hopes of a strong outing. "Sydney ran a very smart race at the Multis and we hope that she can continue her improvement."
The women's race begins at 8:30 am.