Aug. 30, 2006
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Heading into the 2006 cross country season, the Lamar Cardinals have their sites set on the top of the Southland Conference, and beyond.
The Cardinal women enter the season on the heels of back-to-back SLC titles, looking to make it three in a row, while the men look to improve on a sixth place finish in last year's championship.
The women's team brings an experienced group of runners to the table, led by 2005 SLC runner-up Renee Graham, third place finisher Stacey Monteau and fourth place finisher Amanda King. Adding to the depth of cross country talent is 2006 outdoor mile champion Clerc Koenck, who battled through injury during the 2005 cross country season.
In addition the to the four proven commodities, Lamar will look to Karesse Letherman and Mary Johnson of Klein Collins High School, and Mercy Bungei of Uganda to fill the loss of all conference performers Natasha Williams and Jackie John.
"We return four all-conference performers," head coach Trey Clark said. "For our women's team to be successful, we are going to have to have one of our newcomers step up and perform as one of our top five runners.
"Our top goal is to defend the Southland Conference title, which will be a challenge with some of the teams in this league. The other main goal is to better our team performance at the regional championship. Both goals are lofty, but we expect to meet them."
The men's team will be anchored by junior Danny Shaw, who brought home third place in the 2005 SLC championships, while seniors Hamish Meacheam and Ben McBride close out their cross country careers.
Joining the Cardinal this season will be sophomore Ewan Simpson who ran during the 2006 outdoor season, University of New Orleans transfer Frank Bwambale (Uganda) and five newcomers. Austin Turnbull, who competed in the 2006 outdoor track season, will be a freshman in cross country and will be joined by freshmen Randy Becker and Aaron Branen of Bridge City, and newcomers Francis Kasagule and Samuel Kosgei of Uganda.
"We lost quite a few performers from last year's roster," said Clark. "Our goal was to replace the individuals that we lost, with the best possible athletes we could find. This year's team has a lot of new faces. How quickly they come together will determine our success. We are very exited about the talent we have in this group."
The Cardinals have bulked up their schedule this season, competing in several major cross country meets this fall. The season kicks off Friday in Houston at the Houston Relay and has LU returning to Houston on Sept. 9 for the Rice Invitational. The Cardinals will then head north for the Roy Girak Invitational in St. Paul, Minnesota, before closing out their regular season schedule at the Chili Pepper Invitational hosted by the University of Arkansas.
The Southland Conference championship meet will be hosted by Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas on October 27. The NCAA South Central Regional Championships will be held on November 11 in Waco, Texas and the NCAA championships will be held in Terre Haute, Ind. on November 20.
"This schedule reflects our desire to challenge our athletes, and to give them new opportunities," Clark said. "This particular regular season schedule consists of four meets we have never run in. Running in new venues adds to the excitement of competition. We are all really excited about the schedule."