SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 29, 2019) – The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) cross-country teams will begin their 11th season this Friday at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) opener.
In 2018, the men's team captured their fourth consecutive Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) title and qualified for their fourth NAIA National Meet. The women finished last year as runners-up after winning the previous four out of five conference meets.
Head Coach Stephen Sherman, who received the RRAC Men's Coach of the Year for four straight years, said, "While the men had their best historical season ever, the women struggled. On the men's side, it was a really good season. We went into the conference race and took care of business. I feel like we also did some really nice things at nationals. We had the fastest time ever at a national meet."
Along with the men's team qualifying for nationals, Annie Trejo and Andrea Gandara competed as individuals since both finished in the top 10 individually. Trejo was the RRAC individual champion, and Gandara placed seventh.
The men hope to improve upon their time at the NAIA National Championship Meet this year, which takes place Nov. 22 in Vancouver, Wash.
In the men's first trip to nationals in 2015, they finished in 36th place out of 36 teams, and in 2016, they came in 36th out of 37 teams. In 2017, they placed 35th out of 36 teams, and in 2018, the men placed 33rd out of 36 teams.
In the women's first trip to nationals in 2013, they finished in 29th place out of 32 teams, and in 2015, they came in 29th out of 35 teams. The women placed 34th out of 36 teams in 2016 and 2017, they finished in 34th out of 36 teams.
Trejo, who finished out her collegiate career last year, placed 119th in the 5k that featured 339 runners with an OLLU best 18:52.9. Gandara's time was 20:43.9.
Men's team returners
"Jose is back, and he is prime for some great things. We've got a lot of pieces coming back that should help us stay elevated," Sherman commented.
Women's team returners
"We're bringing back Sabrina, who had a much stronger track season than cross. We've got Andrea back, who got her shoulder repaired over the summer, and she should be feeling better than ever. And, Peyton is back, so we are returning some talent," said Sherman.
"This year, we are stripped down a bit in that my recruiting strategy for the men is to just bring in the quality that we needed to replace. Our men's team is not nearly as big but in my mind is equally as talented.
"On the women's side, we are completely rebuilt. We've brought in five freshmen and one transfer. We brought in a large and an influx of talent. Our women's group should be a completely different crew.
The women captured the NAIA Scholar Team award after collectively earning a 3.31 GPA. The men had two members receive NAIA Scholar-Athlete recognition – Derek Barnett and Andrew Moczygemba both earned GPAs of 3.5 and above.
The Saints will begin their season on Friday, Aug. 30, at the UIW Opener, at the STAR Soccer Complex. OLLU will host two consecutive meets, first the Third Annual Saints Collegiate Cross-Country Invitational on Sept. 21 and then the Fifth Annual OLLU Cross-Country Invitational on Oct. 5. Both meets will take place at the Windcrest Golf Club in Windcrest, Texas.
The NAIA Mid-States Classic takes place Oct. 26 at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.
OLLU once again hosts the RRAC Championship Meet on Nov. 8 at the Windcrest Golf Club. OLLU had hosted the meet in 2015, 2016 and 2018, with the 2017 event hosted by Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.
The men's RRAC lineup includes the University of the Southwest, Texas College, Jarvis Christian College and Paul Quinn College. The women's teams are Southwest, Texas and Jarvis.
"With the Red River, I never really know what to expect year-to-year. We lost a quality program in St. Thomas with its move into the NCAA, and we're gaining back Wiley as they did not compete last year [Wiley has since withdrawn from competing.]. So it's always kind of a guessing game. But I anticipate Southwest is going to be strong. The coach [Jessica Baker] does a phenomenal job; I can't give her enough credit. Then you've got Jarvis and Texas College – both have made huge strides with their cross programs.
"It's [RRAC meet] not something where we can go in and expect to win just because we're us particularly on the women's side; we learned that the hard way last year. We have to go into it hungry and make sure we are the best we can be. If we are the best we can be and we show up and run as well as we can run that day, then I like our chances," Sherman said.
Assistant Coach Terry Smith returns for his sixth season. He will assist Sherman with cross-country and will get the track and field teams ready for their season in the spring.