SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 30, 2021) – The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) cross-country teams will begin their 13th season this Friday at the Cross-Country Twilight hosted by the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio. The women are slated to run the 4k at 8:45 p.m. and the men will run the 6k at 9:10 p.m.
Building on success
Cross-country competed in a shortened 2021 spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. OLLU and Jarvis Christian College (JCC) were the only two programs that competed in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC).
The men's cross-country team took first place over Jarvis at the RRAC Championship Meet. All five OLLU runners finished ahead of Jarvis in the individual 8k. Jose Zarate (JR/Mentone Beach, Calif.) finished first with a time of 27:24.
The women's program also hoisted the RRAC trophy. Despite JCC's Fabiola Gonzalez finishing first overall, the Saints' runners finished second through seven. Nadia Sifuentes (JR/Brownsville, Texas) led the Saints in the 5k with a time of 21:16.
Head Coach Patrick Torres begins his second season with the Saints. Torres previously ran for the 2017-2018 track and field team and the 2016 cross-country team. "The transition from athlete to head coach is smoother than I thought it would be," Torres said.
Assistant Coach Brett Charlton enters his second season as well. Charlton was a track and field athlete at Illinois State University and graduated from Eureka College in Eureka, Ill. Anwar Salahuddin and Cody McDonnough begin their second season as volunteer assistants.
Torres was able to recruit nine incoming freshmen. Northside ISD locals Jasmine Hernandez (FR/San Antonio, Texas) and Sierra Ramirez (FR/San Antonio, Texas) join the women's team, and both made regionals while in high school. Joseph Gonzalez, JoseCarlos Hernandez (FR/Natalia, Texas), Diego Moran (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Hendrick Ramirez (FR/El Paso, Texas), Robert Rios (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Angel Rodriguez (FR) and Julio Sanchez (FR/Philadelphia, Pa.) round out the incoming class for the men's squad.
Men's team returners
Antonio Bustamante (SR/El Paso, Texas) will guide the men's team as the lone senior. The junior class includes Isaac Martinez (JR/Weslaco, Texas), Nathaniel Rodriguez (JR/San Antonio, Texas) and Jose Zarate. Rodriguez won the individual medal for the 8k in the 2019 RRAC Cross Country Championship.
Women's team returners
Peyton Lammons (SR/Prosper, Texas) and Kimber Watson (SR/Kingwood, Texas) headline the senior class for the women. Juniors include Lindsey Broussard (JR/Houston, Texas), Robbie Sue Espericueta (JR/La Villa, Texas) and Nadia Sifuentes. Viridiana Zuniga (SO/San Antonio, Texas) represents the sophomore class.
Torres commented, "Nadia is running on a different level right now. I would not be surprised to see her place in the top 20 at the NAIA Cross Country Championship."
The Saints begin the season at the Cross-Country Twilight hosted by UIW on Sept. 3. Following that competition, OLLU heads to the Westside Classic, where they will co-host with Holy Cross High School at Pearsall Park on Sept. 18. "We will be hosting a meet that has a high school junior varsity, high school varsity and college race," Torres said. "Developing a relationship with Holy Cross High School was crucial. Supporting each other as Catholic institutions on the West Side of San Antonio will help build a legacy."
OLLU travels to Incarnate Word again for the UIW Invitational on Oct. 2. On Oct. 9, the Saints will host the annual OLLU Invitational at Windcrest Golf Club. The RRAC Cross-Country Championship will also be hosted by OLLU at Windcrest on Nov. 5. The NAIA National Championship will take place on Nov. 19 for those individuals who qualify.
The conference competition will include Huston-Tillotson University, JCC, the University of the Southwest, Wiley College and RRAC newcomer Xavier University of Louisiana.
Both the men's and women's cross-country teams earned NAIA Scholar Team Awards in 2021. The men averaged a 3.2 GPA while the women tallied a 3.4 GPA. Torres said, "I made a personal goal to graduate 80 percent or more of my athletes. I want to support every athlete in a way that will help them get a degree and be successful in life."
The Saints strive to host top-tier cross-country events. Torres said, "I'd like to make cross-country into an event that's more spectator friendly. We have really talented runners, and the electricity of watching a race come down to the wire is exciting."