SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 23, 2019) - The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) track and field team is pushing for another successful season. The women are hoping to improve at nationals after capturing the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) meet last year.
Head Coach Stephen Sherman said, "The women had a phenomenal season and to go in there and beat Wiley – as good as they were - was a great feat for us. We had a really good and deep group, and this year, we are not as deep. But I think we are still as talented."
Sherman said the top three teams in the conference will be OLLU, the University of the Southwest and Wiley College.
"Last year, Southwest did a really good job of developing into contenders themselves. But as of now we are the favorite to win on the women's side," Sherman said.
The women return sophomores sprinter Victoria De La Cruz (SO/McKinney, Texas), sprinter and jumper Amanda Esparza (SO/San Antonio, Texas) and long-distance runner Andrea Gandara (SO/Kaufman, Texas); juniors Aundrea Culliver, hurdler, sprinter, jumper and thrower Mki Romain; and seniors jumper Quintianna LeShore (SR/Indianapolis, Ind.), sprinter Samantha Millan (SR/El Paso, Texas) and long-distance runner Sarah Taylor (SR/Austin, Texas).
Newcomers include freshmen long-distance runners Sabrina Garcia (FR/Brownsville, Texas), Peyton Lammons (FR/Prosper, Texas) and Audren Pineda (FR/Brownsville, Texas); and sophomore sprinter Destiny Joseph (SO/Houston, Texas).
Sherman said, "Every one of our women is going to be key for us. We've got a lot of firepower in what we have, so we should get a lot of points. Plus we have got a good leadership structure for what we have."
Sherman talked about newcomers Sabrina Garcia and Peyton Lammons. "They were key for us in cross-country. I am looking forward to seeing Sabrina healthy; she was not during cross. I don't think anyone really knows how talented she is in long-distance. Peyton's going to do her thing.
"Someone else I am excited about is Audren, who is a phenomenal athlete who can do a lot of different things for us. We are also excited about the freshmen and what they can bring to the table."
Assistant Coach Terry Smith returns for his fifth season. Sherman said, "He's huge for us. In terms of the sprint and jump side, I really lean on him to do a lot. We would not be where we are now without him and what he's accomplished. Early on I was a lot more involved but as we've grown together, it's been very easy letting him run things on the spring and jump side."
The Saints begin their indoor schedule this weekend, Jan. 26, in Norman, Okla. The teams will travel to the University of Central Oklahoma for the Weilert Open. After that, OLLU will participate in the Texas Tech University Open Feb. 1-2 and Texas Tech University Matador Open Feb. 15 in Lubbock, Texas. The 54th Annual Indoor Track and Field National Championship will take place Feb. 28-March 2 in Brookings, S.D. In 2017, Miki Romain (JR/Austin, Texas) became the first Saints player to qualify for nationals in indoor. She ran the 60m hurdles and finished 21st with a time of 9:20.
They will begin their outdoor schedule on March 2 at the Trinity University Open, and March 14-15, they will run at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) Spring Break Invitational. The teams will travel to Kingsville, Texas, next for the Texas A&M University – Kingsville Cactus Cup on Feb. 23. Feb. 28-31, the teams will travel to Austin for the University of Texas Relays.
After the UIW Invitational April 12-13, the Saints will get ready for the RRAC Track and Field Championship that will take place at Pine Tree Independent School District in Longview hosted by Wiley College Feb. 19-20. The Saints will run one more meet for qualifying purposes on May 4 at Texas Tech University – Masked Rider Open in Lubbock, Texas. Then they will get set for the 38th Annual Outdoor Track and Field National Championships will take place May 23-25 at Gulf Shores, Ala. Last year, Miki Romain was the only Saints player to qualify for nationals. She placed 24th in the hurdles out of 31 participants with a time of 15:07.
Future home of the Saints
The Saints are looking forward to working with Southwest Independent School District. The university signed an agreement with them that allows the Saints to use their high school facility, which has lights, a full track field and restroom accommodations. "We are wanting to be able to host some of our own meets in the near future and call this location our home."
Academics are everything
Last year, Ione Rodriguez became the first track and field student athlete to earn Academic All-American honors, plus she was named an NAIA Scholar Athlete. In addition, the women's team earned NAIA Scholar Team recognition. This year, Sherman looks forward to having more athletes achieve academic awards. "Academics are everything, it's what they are here for," Sherman said.
Fans encouraged to attend local meets
Sherman encourages all Saints fans to come out to their local meets. It's very easy to come out and watch, especially since we will have at least one person in most every event."