Santa Clara will head to Berkeley, Calif. to run in the Brutus Hamilton Meet on the Cal campus on Fri., April 22. First-year head cross country/track coach Felipe Montoro sat down with www.SantaClaraBroncos.com to talk about the team's progress, what they are looking forward to in May and how much cross country season helps the track athletes.
The team is midway through the outdoor season, but are further along in terms of the number of competitions and while Montoro is pleased with the season thus far, he is disappointed Stephanie Wilson and a couple others are unable to compete due to injury.
Montoro is especially looking forward to May 14 when the team will split squads to compete at the unofficial West Coast Conference Championship with the rest heading to Cal State Stanislaus for the Twilight Invite.
SCU: Robert Reid continues to run really well.
FM: Robbie's been looking really good in practice and he had his best race of the year last weekend. Whether or nor he qualifies for the NCAA Regional on Friday, it's not 100% for sure, but I think he has set himself up well to try to run a time that might sneak into the regional meet over the course of the next month. The NCAA has changed the way it does qualifiers this year so it is really difficult to know. You have to be top 48 in your event in your region and there are two regions now nationally (basically split down the middle of the NCAA schools nationally).
Robbie is capable of running under 3:50, but by how much, we'll see. He is probably the only one currently with us that has the most realistic shot/qualifier for regionals. Right now they call it "Round 1" in the NCAA Championships.
Austin Jones has been having a really, really solid year. And our freshmen are running really well, especially Ben Demaree in the steeplechase. Luca Signore ran really well in the 10k a few weeks ago. He'll be in the 5k Friday. Moises Venegas has been running well in the 5k too.
SCU: Do you have a specific leader on the men's team? Or is it just a collective effort for them to run well?
FM: It is definitely a collective effort and everybody plays their part, but I think Robbie is a good team captain. They do look up to Robbie because he has run so fast or faster than them. He's all business and it's nice to have someone like that to keep everybody focused, so he has been great. Also Chris Sampson, this has been his first ever track season really because of injuries, so it's been nice. He's also a senior captain. He and Robbie have a fifth year of cross-country and then they are done.
Chris Mosier is also a captain, but he's been injured. He was injured and then he got a really bad flu virus that knocked him out for like a month, so he is just now getting into shape so hopefully by May 14th at Stanislaus, he can close it out. He was accepted to the Santa Clara Law School and has another year, so I am not sure if he is coming back for running or not.
SCU: What's it like having him as the president [of SCU - Mosier]? And then you have the vice-president too [of SCU-Le] as well. Are they bigger leaders on your team because of that?
FM: It's great. Everyone knows that they are there, and a lot of other people are involved in student government. Chris has always been a big leader in the last year or two. Everybody on the team is involved in something, they just happen to be in student government.
MS: What about on the women's side? Allie Sibole ran well last weekend.
SCU: Allie's been running really well all year, she is just a freshman. Also Hayley Ney has had a break-out year this season. She's not quite at her PR's but she is really close and has just been really consistent and much better than last year. Nicole Giove has had a good year. Erin Hartwig has been pretty solid. Jenny Light's been running well. Erin McCarthy is back and healthy and training but she'll probably just wait until the fall to compete because she is recovering from an injury.
SCU: What is the advantage to running outdoor track for your cross country runners? Is it the mileage? The competition?
SCU: The biggest reason is that they are two different seasons and two different sports and while we don't have an official WCC Championship, it's really great that we are going to be competing against them. Portland is hosting the unofficial meet on May 14 at Willamette University because Portland doesn't have a track either. USF is sending its top athletes, Santa Clara is, Gonzaga is and the top two women from LMU are going, but they just aren't sending anybody else. Then Willamette since they are hosting it will be involved and maybe some schools from their conference. It is going to be really nice to actually be competing in a meaningful meet the same weekend that everybody else is going to be in a conference meet.
SCU: Do you think the WCC will ever have a conference meet for outdoor track?
SCU: If it does, it is a very long way off. But I don't think it puts us at a disadvantage for qualifying for the regional meet. Currently you don't get an automatic bid if you are a conference champion like you used to. We still get to compete in the same number and quality of invitationals throughout the year. But it is really nice to be on the same schedule, training-wise, we are all competing at that time of year.
SCU: Both the men and the women have fantastic cum GPAs and have led the athletic department the last two quarters. The women have a cumulative GPA of 3.344 and the men have a cumulative GPA of 3.295. The women posted a department-high GPA of 3.406 in the Winter 2010 quarter and the men posted a 3.306 GPA for the term. What is like to be surrounded by so many super intelligent student-athletes.
FM: A lot of them are such over-achievers in everything so it's more of an issue to make sure they are not doing too much. But we definitely try to encourage and foster that environment. We try to be as flexible as we can with academic responsibilities. That doesn't mean they are totally not focused and dedicated to distance running.
Honestly we recruit kids that are like that already. Usually their question is 'can you handle high-level running and high-level academics'? We tell them Yes! they have a lot of support here from both the university and the athletic department. It's nice that we obviously never have to worry about that aspect of their eligibility. It helps us attract more great students that are great distance runners and for us that is really important.
SCU: This is your first season as head coach after taking over for Tom Service in December when he retired. Have there been some things you have learned?
FM: Oh sure. Tom Service gave me a little bit more to do in terms of responsibility every year so felt that I was ready for it. There wasn't anything that came up that we hadn't gone over or hadn't been involved with before. So obviously being in the head-coach role is definitely an adjustment and I have been learning to delegate. Priscilla and Chantelle are really helpful and highly qualified. So we have been working out what it is we are all best at.