2011 Women's Cross Country Season Preview
The University of La Verne women's cross country looks to take the next step towards their ultimate goal of becoming a perennial contender at the conference and regional levels.
Under head coach Mike Atwood, the program has seen steady gains over the past two years which has resulted in what he says is a "paradigm shift" in the overall attitude of the runners. "The attitude has definitely changed," he said. "Our athletes know that we're not here to have a hobby but we're here to compete, and its made a big difference in how we approach our meets and practices."
For Atwood, one of the main goals this season is to keep the team healthy for the bigger meets at the end of the season, indicating that having his team injury-free late last season contributed to several school records. "If we can accomplish the goal of staying healthy, we have a strong opportunity to finish in the top half of the conference standings."
Atwood is encouraged about the team's mental approach during the initial team practices and feels like the squad is ready to take the next step in the progression of the program. In addition, Atwood believes the presence of assistant coach Erin Cvengros has already added a positive influence to the team.
La Verne has made strides in recent years in one of the country's toughest conferences and would like to continue their push toward the SCIAC's upper echelon. Atwood believes La Verne is not too far away from realizing that goal. "I think we're beginning to see a change in the conference and I see us as moving upward and becoming a perennial contender in the very near future."
Despite his team's relatively small squad size, Atwood is cautiously optimistic of the potential of this year's opportunity for success. "Our runners need to know their role and be able to deliver when needed," he said. "If we're at full strength, not only will we be competitive in the conference but also in the region."
Last season, La Verne finished 12th at the West Region Championships, registering a total score of 329 with a team time of 2:03:19.26 on the six-kilometer course, an average of 24:39.86. The Leopards earned their highest-ever finish at the Region meet. The team time of 2:03:19.26 established a school record.
Barese was the Leos' top runner a year ago and was a First Team All-SCIAC performer after finishing ninth overall at the conference championship meet. She also paced the Leos at the West Regionals, finishing in 36th place overall, placing one spot away from All-Region honors. "Katie is determined to improve and earn the All-Region spot she came so close to getting last year," Atwood said. "She's hungry and is ready to race."
Castillo was a model of consistency who showed improvement down the stretch of last season. She placed 57th overall at the West Region Championships with a personal best of 24:21.26 and is poised to follow up with more success in 2011. "Micaela has strong confidence and has raced well early on," Atwood said. "I expect big things from her this year."
Among of the newcomers to the roster include Andrea Ramirez, a product of South Pasadena High School who was coached by Pat McGrail, a former distance standout at CMS.
The Leopards will begin the season at the Cal State Fullerton (Sept. 3) and UC Irvine (Sept. 10) Invitationals. The Leopards will vie for conference supremacy at the both the SCIAC Multi-Duals (Oct. 15) and the SCIAC Championships (Oct. 29).