by Scott Harvey
As the Southern California heat beats down on the small suburb of La Verne, the University of La Verne’s men’s and women’s cross country teams are content with a long stroll in the park as preparation for the 1997 season and as an overall reminder that the runners might actually have to run to class this semester.
Beyond last year’s performance placing the men’s team seventh and the women’s team fourth overall in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), the Leopards look to break stride in ’97 by contending for the conference title.
“We had some inexperienced runners last year, but we ran well,” said head cross country coach Pat Widolff.
The ’96 season also was a good individual season for seniors Gilbert Gomez, who captured eighth place overall at the end of the year Eight-Way Meet, and Rosa Sanchez who ran her way to an All Conference ranking.
Although Gomez will not be running this season, he has come on as an assistant coach this year and hopes to help lead the eight women and eight men on this year’s team to high marks.
“We have a pretty good team this year, but we will need some work to compete at a higher level,” said Gomez.
Widolff is poised for the ’97 season knowing that the same schedule as last year’s will be repeated this season.
“It is a nice feeling knowing that you have faced the same teams year after year. This way there are no surprises,” said Widolff.
Along with Widolff and Gomez, the Leopards will return three women and three men to its line-up this season. On the men’s side, the team leader, senior Dan Ferguson, will return with junior Jeremy Gonzalez and sophomore Mike Hernandez. On the women’s side, La Verne returns sophomore Morgan Babler and juniors Lynn Merrill and Eren Piceno.
“Our overall goal is to finish fourth in our conference, beyond that we will see what happens,” said Widolff.
Widolff also explained that more than competing at a superior level, he wants individuals to become noticed and rewarded on his team, a concept he has always believed in.
“The one thing I really want for the runners is to become better each year or get their ‘college P.R. s,’ or in other words, become noticed as not just athletes, but as students who have worked hard,” said Widolff.
The La Verne cross country teams will begin the 1997 season on Saturday, Sept. 13 at the Whittier Invitational in Whittier and will continue its season on Sept. 20 against a tough University of San Diego State team in Balboa Park.