by Don Garrett
The LSC teams have run their meets for September and with the LSC XC Championship meet scheduled for November 6 in Abilene, it is a good time to look and see who is running up to expectations and who has fallen short thus far. I will review the teams in the order I picked them preseason, but there will be movement from the preseason, I guarantee you!
1. Midwestern – looking very good thus far. The returning LSC champ (Sidney Cole) has been running #2 to the JC transfer Brissia Montalvo – it appears that the rich have gotten even richer. Midwestern is getting outstanding performances from 2 freshmen - Ashley Flores (Haltom City) and Janel Campbell (Ingram Tom Moore). It looks like the freshman are good enough that Coach Styles appears to be redshirting 2 of his better returnees - Kayla Hendrix (12th in 2009) and Lindsey Pate (18th in 2009). At this point, the reigning champs look in great shape to keep the string going.
2. Central Oklahoma – they are simply not running very well, but a lot of that is because some key runners are not running regularly. Potential top-10 runner Alina Istrate and Cara Cox (19th in 2009) ran the first week, but not since. Angel Vick (29th in 2009) and top HS recruit, Jacquelynn Skocik, the Oklahoma 6A XC champ last year, have not run at all this year. Katie Kerns and Julie Crocker (47th) appear to running the best of the returnees who are running each meet. If Istrate, Cox, Vick and Skocik run this year, this team is a contender. If not, they will finish far back in the pack, like they did at the Cowboy Jamboree this past weekend.
3. Incarnate Word – pretty solid team. Thus far, they are not getting much production from their new kids, except for Bailey Lloyd, who was on the roster in 2009, but did not run at conference for them. She looks greatly improved and has been running #2 for UIW behind their frontrunner, Marie Troufflard. This team still looks like a top-3 contender to me. Veterans Alison Gonzales, Alma Santos, and particularly Stephanie Glatt need to step it up a little for UIW to truly contend.
4. Angelo State – very hard to read ASU. They are getting good production from two freshmen – Kelsey Merritt of East Bernard and Katy Williams from A&M Consolidated. However, part of the reason they need that production is that their more seasoned competitors – Alyssa Priest (22nd), Jessica Boudreau (26th) , Kami Orsak – are not running up to expectations yet. Emeline Crutcher (8th in 2009) is their leading runner, but it not running as well as in 2009. However, I also remember that in 2009, ASU ran poorly in all the meets leading up to the LSC meet, then ran their best meet of the year at conference and finished 2nd. Not sure whether to expect the same thing in 2010.
5. West Texas A&M – Both Aries Bazaldua (3rd) and Jessica Blakely (34th) are running pretty well early in the season. Freshman Amber Moore (Longview Spring Hill) is also running well. But, this team will need more help from Allie Reyna (21st) and either Allison Medina or Brieana Garcia to truly contend. They have little depth this year – they ran 5 kids at the TTU Open and 6 runners at the Cowboy Jamboree.
6. ACU – if you only scored 3 runners at conference, ACU might be the early favorites. They have a strong top three in returnee Chloe Susset (6th) and newcomers Anais Belledant (won the 1500 and the 5K on the track last spring) and Alyse Goldsmith (transfer from Oklahoma State). For ACU, the conference meet will turn on the performances of freshmen – Sally Hays and Oksana Hays, both from A&M Consolidated but not related, and Rachel Belcher, from tiny TAPPS school Bulverde Bracken Christian. With reasonable performances from 2 of the freshman, this team could contend for a top 3 spot.
7. East Central - was picked 3rd in the LSC preseason poll and 7th in my picks. It looks like they may end up about in the middle of those 2 rankings. They are running okay – soph Hayley Jennings (9th) is again their #1 and running well. Samanda Bartlett (77th) looks to be greatly improved, but JC transfers Jordan Earle and Caroline Masai are not showing they can fill the loss of 2 good runners from 2009.
8. Tarleton – always tough to read the Texans early in the season – Coach Ponder always has them start later than any other LSC team. They have run 1 meet and ran decently, running in a weak field at UNT last weekend. The big disappointment after 1 meet is the poor performance of Vanessa Elizondo, who was 7th last year, yet only ran #4 for TSU this past weekend. The most pleasant surprise for Tarleton had to be Ashley Husbands, the freshman from Denton, who finished well ahead of fellow freshman Payton Shoush, the 2A state champ in the 800 for Brock last spring. Rhyland Pittenger (46th) also ran well at UNT. Will have to wait and see about TSU.
9. Eastern New Mexico – the biggest surprise of the 2009 season was the emergence of a strong men’s team from ENMU. In 2010, it may be the ENMU women’s team following in the men’s footsteps. A much improved team that finished 6th in the strong college field at the Cowboy Jamboree this past weekend, beating fellow LSC foes UCO, ECU, UIW, SWO, SWO, and WT (Midwestern won the college division). Freshman Adrienne Montoya, a state champ at the smallest New Mexico HS division – 2A, has run very well, finishing #1 or #2 for ENMU in all three meets. Nicky Reid (15th) is running well, and Jerri Martin (24th) seems to be rounding into shape after a poor start. ENMU has also gotten production from freshman Brittany Buchanan (Alb. Hope Christian) and Theresa Chacon (58th in 2009). Can they jump all the way to 3rd like the ENMU men did in 2009? Probably not, but they are looking like possible top-5 contenders, which would be a huge step for the program.
10. Southwest Oklahoma - has to lean too heavily on Chelsey Dillon (10th in 2009). It does look like Melissa Banks (76th) is vastly improved over last year. JC transfer Temer Yimer has yet to run in 2010 and she should be someone who really helps this team. The best newcomer is Jennifer Osbourne, who has spent 2 years on the campus as a student, but did not compete and therefore, is at least 3 years removed from XC competition in HS. I incorrectly assumed in my preseason rundown that Sarah Hix (39th) was not on the team because she was not on the preseason roster. She is running, but not well at all, so I assume she is injured and contemplated not competing this year.
11. Texas A&M-Kingsville - has run in 2 meets and in both meets the kids who ran are all XC newcomers to Kingsville – Marrissa Acosta (from Alice), Briana Villareal (from LaFeria), Tezna Roy (from Palacios) , Danica Huerta, Ashley Nunez, Rowena Trevino, and Crystal Avalos. Hard to tell what to expect from the 2 meets – both of which were meets hosted by D-I programs with lots of D-I runners. It looks like the Javs are looking hard for new kids and that will probably mean this season will be tough. I am very surprised that Jessica Martinez (17th) has not run – she must be injured. She could be the difference between finishing 11th or 12th for TAMU-K in 2010.
12. TAMU-Commerce - is also hard to read – they have a huge roster, but have only run 4 or 5 women in the first 2 meets. It looks like Vanderbilt transfer Carolyn Bell will run #1 for Commerce. Kate Donovan (42nd in 2009, but 23rd in 2008) does not look to be running up to her 2008 standard. The only freshman to run so far this year is Rachel Biggers (Dallas Lincoln). Inexplicably, TAMU-C ran in the University division at the Cowboy Jamboree (with ACU), where they finished in last. It would have been much easier to read this team if they had competed in the college division against the 7 other LSC schools in that division.
13. Southeastern Oklahoma – it is painful to read about SEO finishing last each and every week. I hate to say anything negative about the 5 young women who compose the team – after all, I respect that they have the guts to compete on the college level. Barring a surprise of cataclysmic proportions, though, this team will finish last in the LSC meet. Next year won’t be any easier for SEO, as they move to their new Arky-Okie conference, since several of the Arky schools have good XC programs, particularly Harding.
1. ACU – still fronted by the best distance runner in the conference (Amos Sang – the defending champ in the conference in XC, 800, 1500, 5K and 10K!) and Cleophas Tanui (2nd). The ‘Cats look deep and are getting good production from their large freshman class. In fact, they are getting enough production from the freshmen that they are redshirting 2 of their best runners – JC transfer James Grantham from Rend Lake and sophomore Spencer Lynn (13th) who is still trying to come back from an Achilles injury from the indoor track season. Jake Schofield and Will Pike have looked pretty good (until Pike ran poorly at the Cowboy Jamboree). The top freshmen appear to be Erik Forrister, from Llano, and Will Mack, from national HS champion Boerne Champion. However, this past weekend, ECU managed to beat ACU as the Wildcats #3 runner, Romain Rybicki, failed to finish the race. ECU is greatly improved in 2010 and that must be a huge wakeup call for ACU.
2. ENMU – the feel-good story of 2009 was a Greyhound team that improved by leaps and bounds jumping to 3rd place at the LSC meet and competing reasonably well at the regional meet. I actually think they are better in 2010! Top JC transfer Mohamed Noor (7th in the JC national XC meet in 2009) is running lights-out. Richard Kogo (14th) and Jacob Lozano (11th) are both running reasonably well. ENMU is also getting better than expected production from freshmen Brett Villareal, from Amarillo Tascosa and Derrick Vriseno, from Belton. If veterans like (Logan Robertson (39th), Pedro Martinez (40th), and Patrick Lueras (59th) step it up a bit, ENMU could really make it interesting. This is a deep team, trotting out 11-12 runners each week and even having the luxury of redshirting 3 of the runners I thought might make a difference for them in 2010.
3. Incarnate Word – good solid team led by Howard Gill and Adrian Carrillo. They ran well in the Cowboy Jamboree, finishing 5th overall in the college division behind ENMU’s 2nd place. They have also gotten solid work from freshman Alex Hernandez, from San Antonio Wagner, who looks to be the only freshman who will make a big contribution. If they can get better production from the middle of their order – Solomon Rotich, Juan Perez, and Sebastian Jaraba-Heffner, they could hold onto their 3rd place preseason pick.
4. Cameron – the Cowboys ran pretty well at the Jamboree this past weekend, finishing 7th in the college division, getting good runs from Mohamed Khelalfa (10th) and transfer Brian Mulwo (transferring from American International). But the big question for Cameron – where is Julius Korir (3rd in 2009)? Korir is a difference maker for Cameron and has not run yet in 2010. Cameron has seen freshmen Eli Hernandez (from EP Jefferson) and Marcus Trevino (Mineral Wells) run well. Also, the Jamboree was the first time to see newcomer Moses Kipkosgei, who ran reasonably well. Cameron is always an enigmatic team and this year is no different.
5. West Texas A&M – early returns says this ranking may be a little high for WT, but I don’t think we have yet seen the whole team for the Buffs. They are led by Canadian Luke Irwin, the LSC steeplechase champ on the track last spring. Thomas Harris (27th) is always a steady hand, but so far this year Andrew Striley (26th) and Rolando Vasquez (28th) seem to be struggling a bit. The freshman Jadon Rankins (Al Paso Americas) ran decently well in the TTU meet, but did not show up in the Jamboree results. There is potential for WT to have a very competitive squad, but it will take the 3rd, 4th and 5th seeds running to potential.
6. East Central – take at look at the surprise team of the year – ECU! There is a very good chance that ECU will take a huge leap in the standings. The conference preseason had them at 8th and I picked them here at 6th and I think both will prove to be far too low. Top 3? There is a real possibility of that. ECU beat ACU last week at the Cowboy Jamboree. You could say “the ACU #3 guy did not finish the race”, BUT you can also say “the ECU #3 guy, Armando Saldivar, did not run in the race”. This is a vastly improved team. Newcomer Ezekiel Kissorio ran great at their first meet and then literally had to crawl the last 800 meters of the 2nd race. He could be very, very good. Daniel Kiptoo is back from injury in 2009 and is running very well – he was named the LSC runner o f the week 2 weeks ago. The aforementioned Saldivar is eligible this year. They are getting good races from newcomers Cale Eidson (Calera, OK), as well as old hands like Joel Dutton (22nd), Mitchell Haun (43rd) and Austin Christian (46th). They are very deep, running 13-14 kids in each race. The only negative to the season thus far has been the performance of Jim Sutrick who was 6th last year. I have to think he is injured. ECU has a legit shot to shoot into the top 3 and possibly even vie for the whole championship in their last year in the LSC, which will leave a much better taste than that dreadful 8th place finish last year.
7. Tarleton – just like it was for the women, it is hard to tell much from one meet against mediocre competition. From that one meet, it looks like Westyn Rosiles (25th) will be the frontrunner and that Chris Hearell (35th) has improved over the off-season. I did not see results for Jonathan Kern (19th), who could really help this team when he starts running. With only 6-7 on the roster, the Texans are shorthanded, but I also suspect they may still have another runner or two who may show up before the year it out.
8. Angelo State – it looks like a down year for ASU. They are also terribly shorthanded – they have run with 6-7 each meet. They did pick up Josh Tolentino, who ran for Western Texas College last year and he will help with depth. Randall Guinn (21st) looks to running in that #1 spot and Isac Valdez looks to be improved over 2009. When you include Robert Hummingbird (37th) and Nick Wargo (42nd), the Rams are fairly experienced, but no one on the team have been running particularly well this season.
9. TAMU-C – just like their women, the Commerce men chose to run in the University division at the Cowboy Jamboree and I don’t have any idea why. They finished a distant 17th and only veteran Robert Reed (8th in 2008, redshirted in 2009) managed to finish in the top 50% of competitors. The Lions do have some freshmen who are showing some promise – Everett Wilder (Sulphur Bluff), Raymond Mata (Mansfield Legacy), Alex Kimp (Keller Central) and Taylor Hemenway (Anna). These 4 form a nucleus that could make Commerce much more competitive in the future.
10. TAMU-K – just like Commerce, the Hoggies will have to depend heavily on new faces. One “old” face in particular returns – Kiya Dandena (15th) who is running extremely well this year, he could be a top 10 contender. Another returnee who has improved by leaps and bounds is Esteban Lopez (67th), who does not look like he will be running at the back of the conference pack in 2010. All the other faces are either redshirt freshmen (Amanuel Belay, Greg Carmona, Josh Prado) or true freshmen like Andre Fuqua. This team does look more competitive than 2009, but still has a ways to be consistently competitive at the conference level.