SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 29, 2021) – The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) cross-country teams begin their season today at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) Cross-Country Invitational, while the track and field teams open their season on March 5 at the Trinity University Invitational.
Head Coach Patrick Torres, who ran for the Saints in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons, began his first year at the helm in November 2020. "Not having a full year to prepare has been challenging," Torres said. "We essentially did not have a fall to get into condition and build that foundational fitness. With that being said, I am so proud of our teams for taking the challenge head-on. They've embraced the challenges this year has presented, and they come to practice every day with great energy. I'm really excited about this group for this season and the seasons moving forward.
The cross-country team has its season in the fall, but due to COVID-19 precautions, the season was moved to the spring. Track and field will play out its season as scheduled in the spring.
"Recruiting has become more art than science. Some runners, especially sprinters, don't have results since their sophomore years so it's kind of like having to look into a crystal ball and project where they would be running or jumping if they had a normal junior and senior season.
"High school coaches have been really cooperative though and not having results has made the recruiting process a little more nuanced. I think this will help us find quality Saints in the future even when COVID gets under control.
"Our practice has changed some; being an outside sport does give us some level of safety that indoor sports don't, but I do find myself reminding the athletes and myself to socially distance. The beginning of practice has also changed with us going through all the screening pre-practice. So despite all of the new safety measures, once we get moving, practice for the most part feels like any practice we would have before COVID. Losing athletes for weeks at a time can be frustrating, especially when COVID makes exercise difficult for them after they test positive, but I try and keep perspective no matter how an athlete comes back from COVID. At least they've come back from it."
Torres' has a few freshmen and newcomers join the team this season. "The ones we have are awesome."
Freshman long-distance runner Viridiana Zuniga has been responding well to training and Torres is excited to see her attack the track this spring and move up to the 1500m.
"John Michael Davila (JR) is an upperclassman transfer who has added some leadership to our team as well as showing rapid progress in his training," Torres commented.
"Chris Davila (FR/San Antonio, Texas) is a freshman distance runner who looks like he's going to be a big part of our cross- country success in the future, and he's adapting to college training really well. That's mostly a testament to how hard he works," Torres said.
Returners include sprinter/jumpers David Dada (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Tamaj Gordon (SO/San Antonio, Texas) and Audren Pineda; distance runners Antonio Bustamante (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Isaac Martinez (SO/Weslaco, Texas), Nathaniel Rodriguez (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Jose Zarate (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Lindsey Broussard, Robbie Sue Espericueta, Peyton Lammons, Nadia Sifuentes and Kimber Watson; sprinters Amanda Esparza, Destiny Joseph, Brianna Pantoja, Makhayla Parker, Alondra Toledo and Colton Townsend (SO/San Antonio, Texas); mid-distance runners Natalie Martinez and Amaya Stuefen; and hurdler Lauren Perry.
"We have some really awesome returners across the board," said Torres. "Our seniors, Amanda Esparza and Destiny Joseph have been leaders in practice and both will run some great 100m times this year. Destiny has been running really well in practice over the last two weeks and Amanda, who's a dual-sport athlete in volleyball, has essentially been putting in overtime doing our workouts and volleyball. I think she'll see all that pay off on the track and with volleyball.
"I think we have a few sprint and jump records in jeopardy on the men's side. Tamaj Gordon is someone I could see taking a few records and possibly Colton Townsend as well. And, on the women's side, I think Audren Pineda has her eyes set on the long jump mark, and I don't see the current record standing for very long because of that.
"On the distance and cross-country side, Jose Zarate looks like he might do something special in the spring. Nathaniel Rodriguez is a returning former RRAC champion, and I think he's got good competition for that title within his own team. Lindsey Broussard is another RRAC champion on the women's side. Lindsey and Kimber Watson are setting the tone as our veterans on the women's side, and Antonio Bustamante has been an incredibly hard worker who keeps the men's team honest."
The cross-country team will run the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Championship Tournament on March 27. A location has not been determined yet. The RRAC Championships for track and field will be hosted by OLLU April 16-17 at Southwest High School.