2002 Cross Country Outlook
Confidence and experience are the strengths of this year's men's and women's cross country team. These strengths stretch from the coaching staff throughout both teams. Each team returns numerous core runners, second-year coaches and unfulfilled dreams of WAC titles.
Shannon Lieder, the head women's coach, feels very strongly about the success her team could have this year, and rightfully so. Her three top runners, Olga Gutierrez (Visalia, Calif.), Kara June (Santa Maria, Calif.), and Michelle June (Santa Maria, Calif.) return this year. For Gutierrez this will be her senior season but for the Junes' this will be their junior year.
Gutierrez was the team's top runner last year, finishing first among Bulldogs at the WAC Championships and NCAA Regionals. Kara and Michelle June did not finish far behind their teammate and both have a strong desire to compete, often flip-flopping between the top three positions over the last years.
Senior, Stacy Esquivel (Visalia, Calif.) and sophomore, Stacy Aurit (Union City, Calif.) added strong performances in 2001. Both girls held strongly their fourth and fifth positions on the team through the season.
The women's team improved to seventh in last year's WAC Championship, up one from their eighth place finish the season before. Lieder, once an All- American student- athlete at Fresno State, anticipates that the team's hard work and improvements will catapult the team to a much better finish this year. Such improvements include Orelia Gonzales (Walnut, Calif.), a transfer from Mt. SAC Community College. Gonzales placed eighth in the Cal State Community College Cross-Country Championships.
The men's team has the same high hopes for this year. Head men's coach Joe Gonzales believes his senior-laden squad has a good chance at the WAC title. Senior Roosevelt Cook (Oakhills, Calif.) was last year's top runner. He finished first on the team at the WAC Championships and the NCAA Regionals. Other top seniors include Roberto Vaca (Parlier, Calif.), and Philip Ogilvie (Clarksburg, Calif.). Vaca is not a stranger to the top; as a sophomore he placed first on the team at the WAC Championships and NCAA Regionals. Ogilvie had a breakthrough year in 2001, finishing second on the team in its last two meets.
The men's team returns 15 runners, seven of who are seniors. One such senior is Alex Mason (Alameda, Calif.) who finished second on the team at the NCAA Regionals. In addition to his seniors, Gonzales is enthusiastic about Fernando Cabada (Clovis, Calif.), a transfer from the University of Arkansas.
Although a possible redshirt, Cabada could compete on the team as junior. At Arkansas he earned all-section honors by placing 11th at the SEC Championships, 10th at the South Central Regionals and 70th at the NCAA Championships.
Underclassmen like, Kyle Cirrincione (Fresno, Calif.) and Curtis Barela (Hinkley, Calif.), both sophomores were among the team's top finishers the entire season.
On Aug. 31, the Bulldogs will unofficially begin their season with the 37th annual Watermelon Run. The run is on campus on Cedar and Barstow, next to the softball field. This annual event is one in which the public is encouraged to participate. There will be three races consisting of one, two, and four miles. To take part in this event, registration is necessary and begins at 8 a.m. And to hold true to tradition there will be plenty of watermelon to eat.
Last year, for the men, all 15 Bulldogs that entered the one-mile race finished in the top 20. Roosevelt Cook placed first on the team with a time of 4:35 and Josh Roody (Manteca, Calif.) came in second with a time of 4:48. The women's team competed in the two mile run. Kara June came in 13th with a time of 10:52. Olga Gutierrez and Stacy Esquivel finished within a second of each other. Gutierrez finished 20th with a time of 11:22 and Esquivel 21st with a time of 11:23.
But before the Watermelon Run the team spends a six days at training camp. Three van loads, about 16 men and 14 women left Monday, August 19 and will return Saturday, August 24. This annual camp is held at Shaver Lake, Calif. This is the first meeting for the team after an entire summer off. While at camp the team will usually hold two intersquad races. These two races consist of a 2.2-mile and a 9.3-mile. Last year both teams gave stellar performances; recording faster times than in years before.
In the 2.2 mile, for the men' s team both Roberto Vaca and Roosevelt Cook tied for first, recording a time of 12: 30. Alex Mason was not far behind finishing with a time of 12:44. For the women, Kara June was the top finisher with a time of 15:57. Recording times under 17 minutes were the next three women: Stacy Aurit, Olga Gutierrez, and Courtney Stewart.
In the 9.3-mile, the women gave another strong performance. Finishing first was Olga Gutierrez with a time of 67:13:27 and Kara June finished second, with a time of 70:14:69. For the men there would not be another tie but still a close finish. Roberto Vaca came in first with a time of 53:35:89 and Roosevelt Cook took second with a time of 55:36:77.
The Bulldogs will officially begin their season on Saturday, September 7. The women will travel to Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, Calif. Last year the women's team placed first at this Invitational. Olga Gutierrez and Kara June placed first and second the 6K race. The men will travel to the UC Irvine in Irvine. This will be the second time the men have competed at Irvine. The team placed 7th last year out of 16 teams. The race in Irvine was 8K and the top three bulldogs were Roosevelt Cook, Alex Mason, and Roberto Vaca.
The future looks bright for both teams because both teams have so much in common. They both have third year coaches who have confidence in their teams as well as each other's. Both teams return experienced runners as well as strong and enthusiastic transfers. If they stick to their strengths (experience and confidence) it seems as though a WAC title is practically inevitable.