We would like to take a moment to welcome our new Special Contributor Don Garrett, who will be covering all of the Lone Star Conference Track for the LSC Scoop.
Don is one of the busiest track and field P.A. announcers in the southwest, working 14-16 meets each track season. Garrett was the announcer at the Lone Star Conference meet 3 of the past 6 seasons and also was a co-announcer at the NCAA D-II national indoor championships in Houston last March. Other meets in 2009 included being a co-announcer at the Texas Relays, JC national indoor championships, the Big 12 Conference outdoor championships and the Sun Belt Conference indoor and outdoor conference meets.
Garrett's first track and field love is the Lone Star Conference, since he started announcing meets for LSC schools. He views the LSC as one of the top 2 or 3 D-II conferences in the U.S. That will only get better, with WTAMU adding track in 2009 and Incarnate Word joining the LSC in 2010.
Welcome to the Scoop, Don!
Special Contributor: Don Garrett
Recently, the LSC released their preseason rankings in Cross Country and like most preseason rankings in most sports, the rankings are guesswork, based mostly on the standings from the previous year. They are seldom based on the actual rosters for the teams, since most of those rosters were completed after the rankings were published.
I have looked at the 2009 rosters of virtually all of the LSC schools, either on-line or as received from the coaches and this is a preview based on those rosters. Frankly, I don’t differ much from the preseason rankings from the LSC (at least on the men’s side), but I think there is a valid basis for each ranking.
ACU – 1st in 2008; LSC preseason pick – 1st; my pick – 1st.
Not exactly a stunning pick, ACU has won the last 18 men’s XC championships. ACU lost three kids who were in the top 6 at the conference meet: Julius Nyango (3rd), Serge Gasore (5th) and super-freshman Charles White (6th – not sure to where he has transferred).
However, ACU returns the top 2 returning runners from the conference meet – Daniel Maina (1st) and Cleophas Tanui (2nd). Also returning is Amos Sang, who was 3rd at the 2007 conference meet and may be the best of the three, plus Jake Schofield, who ran #6 for ACU in 2008 and finished 36th at conference.
ACU is adding some firepower, including internationals Romain Rybicki (France) and Craig Peters (a Welsh kid from the U.K.); Colby Delbene, a 9:03 2-miler from Pawling, NY; and Spencer Lynn, from White Oak, who was 2nd in both the 3A 1600 and 3200 on the track in 2009. I don’t see anyone upsetting the Wildcats.
Tarleton State – 2nd in 2008; LSC preseason pick – 2nd; my pick – 2nd.
Tarleton has 6 of their top 8 runners back, including Jared McNeil, who finished 9th at the conference XC meet in 200, but who really emerged in the spring and was the Track Performer of the Year at the conference track meet. Also, returning are Westyn Rosiles (15th), Ryan Quesada (16th), Jonathan Kern (22nd), Gerzain Valenzuela (24) and Kendall Styles (38th). A very solid core of returning runners that includes some, like Valenzuela, who could see a big improvement in 2009.
However, the Texans also lost 2 excellent runners from 2008, Kolin Styles (17th) and Rey Hinajosa (20th). The only new addition is Steve Cantwell, who was a good runner for McMurry last year, finishing 11th in the American Southwest XC meet. However, the ASC is D-III (non-scholarship) and it will be a big jump for him to D-II competition.
It looks to me like Tarleton might be a little stronger, but they are one really stud runner away from challenging ACU. They should still hang onto 2nd.
TAMU-Commerce – 3rd in 2008, LSC preseason pick – 3rd; my pick – 3rd (barely)
The Lions made a huge leap in 2008, moving into the top 3 and vying for 2nd place. Their top 3 runners – Tyler Tindell (4th), Cody Hughes (7th) and Robert Reed (8th) all finished in the top 10. Gerardo Delafuente (19th) ran #4 and was in the top 20 – then, there was a long dropoff to that all important 5th spot (Brandon Womack in 43rd place).
Commerce returns 6 of their top 7 runners for 2009, but the one they lost was Cody Hughes, one of their Three Musketeers in the top 10. Hughes, who has eligibility left, is a huge loss.
Commerce has recruited three high school kids with some promise, with Nathan White, from Wills Points (4th in the 3A 3200 at the state track meet last spring) and Laurencio Tamayo, from tiny Lingleville (8th A 3200 at the state track meet) the most interesting. However, these young recruits will not be able to make up for the loss of Hughes in 2009 and the Lions may have a hard time hanging onto that 3rd spot.
East Central – 4th in 2008, LSC preseason pick – 4th; my pick – 4th
The Tigers return 4 of their top 7 runners – Jimmy Sutrick (11th), Daniel Kiptoo (13th), Stefan Terrell (29th), and Tyler Jackson (46th). However, they lose their top runner from 2008, the other Sutrick brother, John (10th), plus their #4 kid Jacob Bussell (27th).
In order to finish as high as 4th again, ECU needs to find one more strong runner that can even break into the top 10, like John Sutrick did in 2008 and I think they may have found that guy. Armando Saldivar was a terrific HS cross country runner at Fort Worth Northside, winning the 4A state championship in 2005, back in that 5 year span when Northside ruled the world of Texas 4A XC. Armando went to UTA and consistently underwhelmed – never coming close to the promise he showed in high school. A new school might be just the thing that Armando needs.
ECU also brought in some strong Oklahoma high school runners – Austin Christian, from Kelleyville (the OK 3A 1600 champ on the track) and Chase McDaniel, from Caddo (the OK 2A runnerup in both the 1600 and 3200). Both of these kids could also help ECU in their first year on campus.
Angelo State – 5th in 2008; LSC preseason pick – 5th; my pick – 5th
Angelo returns 6 of their top 7 kids from 2008, including their top three – Shannon Cunningham (14th), Brian Carroll (16th), and Nate Gonzales (23rd), all of whom are highly competitive at the conference level. However, there is a huge dropoff to the #4 returner, Robert Hummingbird (46th).
The Rams have signed three solid kids from the Texas HS ranks, the most intriguing being Colten Dieterich, from Riesel (7th in the 2A 1600 in 2008 and 7th in the A 3200 in 2009 after Riesel dropped down a classification, as well as running 4th in the A XC meet last fall) and Hogan Campbell from Tom Moore HS in Ingram (5th in the Region I-3A 1600 and 3200 on the track). If any of their HS kids come through, Angelo could move higher in the standings.
Cameron – 6th in 2008; LSC preseason pick – 6th; my pick – 6th
Cameron is truly the wild-card in the standings for 2009. As usual, the Aggies have a talented international athlete as their top returner – Mohamed Khelalfa (12th in 2008), but they lost their #2 runner – Edwin Cheleshaw (21st) who had eligibility left. Cameron should get a boost by Casey Kreger (30th in 2007) returning after a redshirt year.
The Aggies are a wild card because they will have at least 8 new runners in 2009, highlighted by David Barmasai, the Kenyan who won the 2008 JC steeplechase on the track and who originally signed with WTAMU. Not sure what happened at WT, but Barmasai did not compete for them in 2008-9 and he is now at Cameron. He is capable of a top 10, even a top 5 conference finish.
Other interesting newcomers are Julius Korir Kiptoo, a transfer from NAIA Lindenwood in Missouri, who ran at the NAIA national XC meet in 2008; Ramiro Garica, another of the talented XC runners from Fort Worth Northside (8th in the Region I-4A XC meet last fall); plus 5 other high school recruits. If 2-3 of these kids come through, then Cameron moves up to somewhere around 3rd to 5th place. If they don’t, then 6th may too high.
West Texas A&M – 8th in 2008, LSC preseason pick – 7th; my pick – 7th
WT does not return its #1 runner from 2008, Jose Valesquez (28th), but it does have three kids returning who ran last year, including rising sophomores Thomas Harris (36th) and Andrew Striley (41st).
More important, the Buffaloes went out and got 7 new kids for the team, including 2 JC kids (Rolando Vasquez from Cowley County and Andrew Sanders from Iowa Western) and a Kenyan (Albert Kimutai Maina) for instant impact. Of the 4 incoming freshman, the ones who might have the most immediate impact include Robbie Ness, from Canyon (28th in the 4A XC last fall), Adam Lane, from Amarillo (1st in the District 2-5A 800 on the track) and Michael Janousek, from The Woodlands College park (9th in the uber-tough Region II-5A 3200 on the track.)
WT has gotten serious about its track and field program very quickly and that should pay off in cross country as well within a year or two.
Eastern New Mexico – 7th 2008, LSC preseason pick – 8th; my pick – 8th
One thing that the bottom three in the standings have in common - they will all be much, much more competitive than in the past. Coach Boll has recruited kids from three states to try and make the Greyhounds more competitive and the base is there for a much improved team.
ENMU returns its best runner from 2008, Logan Robertson (30th), plus 2 other runners, Derek Henio (#40) and Gilbert Manzanares (42nd). The improvement in the future will come from the 8 high school kids who are coming to Portales in 2009, including: Dustin Francke, from Hobbs (2nd in the NM 5A 800), Antwone Cobbin, from Lancaster, who was 8th in the Region II-4A 800 on the track), Mario Portillo, from Tucson’s Catalina HS (7th AZ 4A state XC meet) and Pedro Martinez, from Keller Fossil Ridge (27th in the 5A XC meet last fall). A very solid recruiting class.
TAMU-Kingsville – 9th in 2008; LSC preseason pick – 9th; my pick – 9th.
New track and field/XC Coach Dall found the cupboard bare when he moved from Duke University to Kingsville in 2008. The Javelinas return the one kid who did not run dreadfully at the conference meet – Kiya Dandena (33rd). The bottom 4 kids of the whole field were all Hoggies in 2008 – a painful exhibition for a once-proud XC program.
Coach Dall should also get an “A” for effort, as he has recruited an incredible 37 kids to the track program for 2009-2010 and 8 of them are male distance runners. None of them look like they are world-beaters, but there is some potential in the ranks and a lot of kids who have some solid HS experience, like Brett Arredondo from Kingsville (8th in the Region IV-4A 1600 on the track), David Johnson, from Rockport Fulton (53rd in the Region IV-4A XC meet) or Amanuel Belay, from Houston Bellaire (79th in the Region III-5A XC meet). This year will represent baby steps for Coach Dall as he tries to revitalize the program.
BONUS: Incarnate Word – 2008 1st in the Heartland Conference and picked #1 in the Heartland again in 2009.
UIW joins the LSC in 2010-2011 school year and the Cardinals should be instantly competitive. They won the Heartland in 2008, although the Heartland is not nearly as competitive as the LSC on the men’s side.
The Cardinals lost their top 3 kids from 2008, runners who placed 3rd, 4th and 6th at conference. However, they return Adrian Carrillo (7th), Jaro Rodriguez (9th), and Shayn Weidner (10th). Only Weidner is a senior this season and won’t be available when they transition to the LSC in 2010.
The Cardinals recruited a lot of bodies – 7 high schoolers and a Kenyan (Solomon Rotich). The most intriguing high schooler is Howard Gill, a home school kid who runs for the highly competitive home school team, San Antonio FEAST. Gill was named to the San Antonio newspaper All-Area team and has run a 4:20 1600. The Cardinals should be a middle of the pack team in 2010 in their first year, possibly able to break into the top 4.
Well, I did not stray a single time from the LSC Preseason poll, as much as I wanted to do so. ACU still looks like the class of this conference. However, with a key recruit or 2, both Tarleton and TAMU-Commerce could have moved up to contend with the Wildcats this year. The bottom three teams in the conference should improve exponentially over the next year or two. While 2009 may go fairly close to form, I see the 2010 season being much more unpredictable.