SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 16, 2020) – The women's Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) track and field team missed capturing the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) championship title last season by 23 points. With the talent coming in this year, Head Coach Stephen Sherman has no doubt the team has a real shot at winning conference this year.
Sherman said, "We have one of the biggest teams this year, and we are definitely the most talented. We have the most depth we have ever had across all events. I am impressed with how well-rounded we are.
"The women are definitely hungry for another [title]. They had a taste for it in 2018, when they won conference. They've been getting after it since August. I really like the urgency."
Conference tournament results
In last year's conference meet in Bullard, Texas, The University of the Southwest captured the title with 248 points, closely followed by the Saints with 225. The rest of the field finished by more than 120 points behind.
The Saints' winners returning to the team this year include Aundrea Culliver (SR/Round Top, Texas) (triple jump, 400m), Amanda Esparza (JR/San Antonio, Texas) (high jump), Audren Pineda (SO/Brownsville, Texas) (4x800mR) and Miki Romain (SR/Round Rock, Texas) (SR/Austin, Texas) (100mH).
Sherman expects the conference slate of teams with the most potential of winning conference is OLLU and Southwest. Other teams competing in the conference include Huston-Tillotson University, Jarvis Christian College, Paul Quinn College, Texas College and Wiley College.
The women return Culliver (jumper, sprinter), Patience Okpe (SR/Benue, Nigeria) (sprinter, thrower), Romain (hurdler, jumper, sprinter, thrower); juniors Maricela Castro (JR/San Antonio, Texas) (sprinter), Amanda Esparza (jumper, sprinter), Destiny Joseph (JR/Houston, Texas) (sprinter); sophomores Sabrina Garcia (SO/Brownsville, Texas) (long distance), Peyton Lammons (SO/Prosper, Texas) (long-distance) and Audren Pineda (jumper, sprinter).
"Miki has been a God-send," commented Sherman. "It's been really good having her and she's had success, and I am anticipating the same kind of success [for this year]. I know she wants to be an All-American, and we'd like to see her do that, too."
In Romain's first season with the Saints in 2017, she qualified for the NAIA Indoor Championships in the 60mH. The following year, she made it to the outdoor nationals in the 100mH and last season, she qualified for both indoor – 60mH – and outdoor – 100mH.
"She's had some really good finishes, but she needs to finish in the top eight in order to be an All-American."
Sherman also mentioned Culliver. "She's done it all for us. She's had a lot of success and is someone you can count on to bring it in multiple events."
Okpe has also found her niche. "She's been throwing the javelin for us and has been doing very well. We're looking forward to seeing what she will do."
"Aside from Miki, Audrea and Patience, Audren, Sabrina and Peyton are going to be huge for us," Sherman commented.
The team has added 10 freshmen including Lindsey Broussard (FR/Kingwood, Texas) (long distance), Gloria Cervantes (FR/Laredo, Texas) (long distance), Robbie Sue Espericueta (FR/La Villa, Texas) (long distance), Peyton Joyner (FR/San Antonio, Texas) (hurdler), Natalie Martinez (FR/San Antonio, Texas) (sprinter), Brianna Pantoja (FR/San Antonio, Texas) (sprinter), Makhayla Parker (FR/San Antonio, Texas) (sprinter), Lauren Perry (FR/DeSoto, Texas) (hurdler), Nadia Sifuentes (FR/Brownsville, Texas) (long distance), Amaya Studefen (sprinter); sophomores Alondra Toledo (SO/Brownsville, Texas) (sprinter) and Kimber Watson (SO/Kingwood, Texas) (long distance).
According to Sherman, "Lindsay will be huge for us after coming off a cross-country championship this past fall. But we really don't have anyone on the roster who is not going to have an impact this year."
"There is Lauren Perry, who is a phenomenal hurdler and also a pure athlete, and she can chip into other things, as well. I dare say she might be the best pure track athlete we've ever had. I'm anticipating big things from her."
Sherman indicated the team will be more well-rounded this year with the addition of pole vaulting, discus throwing and javelin throwing. These events will be in addition to sprinting, jumping, long-distance, hurdles and shot put.
Assistant Coach Terry Smith returns for his sixth 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. 18, in Norman, Okla. The team will travel to Houston Texas next for the FasTrack Collegiate Invitational Jan. 24-25. On Feb. 21, the Saints will be in Lubbock, Texas, for the Texas Tech Matador Qualifier. From March 5-7, the 55h Annual Indoor Track and Field National Championship will take place in Brookings, S.D.
They will begin their outdoor schedule on March 6 at the Trinity University Invitational, and March 20-21, they will run at the Texas A&M University – Kingsville Cactus Cup in Kingsville, Texas. They will follow that with a trip to San Angelo, Texas, for the Angelo State University David Noble Relays on April 4. After the UIW Invitational April 10-11, the Saints will host the Red River Athletic Conference Championship April 17-18. The meet will take place at the Southwest Independent School District facilities in San Antonio. The Saints will participate in the Texas Tech University Corky-Crofoot Shootout May 1-2, and then get set for the NAIA National Championship May 21-22 at Gulf Shores, Ala.
Academics are everything
Sherman said, "It's always our goal to have our student-athletes excel in the classroom. The track team earned the NAIA Scholar Team award last season, and this past fall, they had the best GPA out of all 13 teams at OLLU.
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."