Nov. 8, 2006
Los Angeles, Calif. - Fresh off the WCC Championship which saw Loyola Marymount's Laura Mickelson win the women's individual crown, LMU cross country continues its postseason Saturday at the NCAA Regionals. The Lions will head to Gresham, Oreg. to participate in both the men's 10k and the women's 6k.
WCC team champion Portland will host the 2006 NCAA Regionals at Gresham's Blue Lake Park. The women's 6k starts at 11:00 a.m., while the men's 10k will kick-off at 12:15 p.m. In traditional cross country style, the current forecast for Saturday in Gresham is 50 degrees and rainy.
Like the October 28 WCC Championship course, the women's regional course will once again be the 6k distance. The 6k course is almost entirely flat with grass footing, with few asphalt road crossings. The women will run three laps plus the 200 meter finish. The men will increase to a 10k from the WCC's 8k course. The men's course is the same terrain as the women's, except the 10k course will consist of four laps of 2,450 meters plus the 200 meter finish.
"For the last few years, our goal has really been to get ourselves into the top half of our conference." LMU Head Coach Scott Guerrero said. "The next logical step for us is to perform well at the regional level."
The 2005 NCAA Regionals were held at the Stanford University Golf Course. There, the LMU women finished 14th out of 30 teams, the best finish in school history. Mickelson was the Lions' top finisher in 30th place (21:22.9). Brittany Rezowalli was third for the Lion in 81st place (22:25.7). The LMU men finished 21st out of 23 teams, with Lino Almeida (2006 redshirt) as the top finisher in 98th place (33:00.1). Sean Sisk was second for the Lions, placing 118th (33:39.3), followed by Drew Haberkorn in 127th (33:57.5).
The Lion women will keep the same lineup from the WCC Championship and run the juniors Mickelson and Rezowalli along with Claudia Bishop, seniors Kristen Gonzalez and Melani Hom, sophomore Abby Fall, and freshman Annie Holden.
While the regionals are the gateway to the national championships, the Lions are in one of the nation's toughest regions. The women's field includes top-ranked Stanford, seventh-ranked UC Santa Barbara, eighth-ranked Arizona State, and 29th-ranked Washington. Other regionally-ranked foes include fifth-ranked Oregon, sixth-ranked UCLA, seventh-ranked Washington State, eighth-ranked Portland, ninth-ranked Long Beach State, and 10th-ranked UC Irvine.
The men will face nationally-ranked Oregon (sixth), Stanford (seventh), Portland (ninth), Cal Poly (19th), UC Santa Barbara (22nd), and Arizona (24th). The field will also include regionally-ranked Arizona State (seventh), Washington (eighth), UCLA (ninth), and Washington State (10th).
"The West Region is very tough," Guerrero said. "Most other programs in our region are big, public and well-funded. We'd be very happy to finish top-10 on the women's side and top-15 on the men's side. That, however will be very difficult and would easily represent our highest finishes in program history. The reason we run the races is to see who is at their best on any given day. We're going to give it everything we have and see how it all shakes out."
For the first time in program history, the Lions have an individual with a shot at qualifying for the NCAA National Cross Country Championships in Terra Haute, Indiana. Mickelson, who qualified for the 2006 NCAA National Track Championships last June, will look to finish among the top women to earn the invitation to nationals.
Mickelson won the WCC title by a gap of well over a minute, leading the LMU women to a third place team finish.
"Laura is ready and is excited to test herself against some of the best in the country," Guerrero said. "I expect her to do very well. I just don't think there are a whole lot of folks in our region who can outrun her. But again, that's why we run the races. Our goal is to have her become the first NCAA qualifier in LMU's cross country history, and I believe she is poised to do just that."