Aug. 30, 2012
BEAUMONT - Head coach Trey Clark is right to be excited for the upcoming cross country season as both Lamar squads will be looking to continue the strong tradition the program has developed over the past decade, and if preseason rankings are to be believed, 2012 looks to be yet another standout year.
"This is a program, that really, over the last eight years or so, has been very significant in the regional standings," Clark said. "Last year the women put together a really good season, finishing seventh at the NCAA Regional, and the men have been third or fourth over the past six years. There's been consistency and stability, so it's nice to see that people, before the season even opens up, expect us to perform well in cross country."
The men's program, winner of the previous six Southland Conference titles, was ranked fourth in the region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, trailing Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas. With fellow Southland schools Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (sixth), McNeese State (seventh) and Stephen F. Austin (ninth) in the rankings, it won't be easy, but Clark is confident in his team.
"After winning six in a row, our team goes into every year wanting to win another conference title," Clark said. "Obviously there are other teams that go in wanting to win as well, but for us that is the first thing we want to take care of every season. We want to advance to the national meet at the end of the season. Ultimately, that is our goal, to put a team into the National Championship."
On the women's side, LU will be looking to repeat the form from 2004 to 2006, which saw the Cardinals claim three consecutive titles. The squad carries a ninth-place ranking in the regional poll, and is coming off a third-place finish at the conference meet last season.
"We have a new group on the women's side this year," Clark said. "After finishing seventh at the regional meet last year, our goal is to remain competitive in both the regional and conference meets."
Friday offers the first chance for local fans to get a glimpse of the 2012 squads as LU will host the Cardinal Relays at Claiborne West Park. Teams of two will run the length of the course as Lamar will use it to prepare for bigger races later in the season.
"Our kids just got here over the weekend, so this meet only serves as the beginning of the journey," Clark said. "We're going to have a little fun with it, and figure out the teams on Friday morning. I think we're going to enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to it.
Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State will also be competing in the event, and the scheduled start time is 6:00 p.m.