Season Preview

Harriers Push to the Front of the Pack in 2016


SAN LUIS OBISPO (September 7, 2016)— Cuesta College’s Cross Country teams opened the 2016 season early this season at the Oxnard Invitational on August 26. Both teams showed off their early season training with the women finishing 2nd as a team and the men landing in 6th place. Coach Brian Locher (10th year) believes both teams can finish the season in the Top 10 at State, but he is pushing for Top 5 or higher. Locher says, “Our goal for the women is Top 5 in state and to chase Glendale and Canyons for the WSC (Western State Conference) title.” He adds about the men, “The guys look great! We have a shot at WSC in a solid four-team pack. We will be Top 10 (at State), at least, but hoping for Top 5.”

Both Cuesta teams are poised for big seasons and Locher noted the teams’ secrets to success. He noted, “They are excited about making a commitment to their success. They learn so much by practicing and working with their teammates. It is not the pedigree, but the will to be better that matters.”

Men’s Team

The men are coming off their eighth consecutive CCCAA State Meet appearance and just missed their second straight Top 10 performance with an 11th place finish in 2015.  Prior to the current run the men had not reached the state meet since the dissolution of the two-division in 1982-83, however the 2016 Cougars will use their across the board speed and depth to adjust their team goal from just making the state meet to winning it.

            2015 All State Harrier Sean McDermott (Kings Beach) is back for another run at an individual state title. He earned All State honors in 2015 after finishing 5th at the CCCAA State Meet. Locher says, “Sean is where he needs to be and he wants to win a state title. He is healthy and put in some great training. He is a smart racer.”   McDdermott also qualified for the 2016 CCCAA State Track & Field Meet in the Steeplechase and 5K, however he just missed earning All State honors in track too. McDermott surprised everyone at the start of his freshman year, but after producing standout performances all year he will have a target on his back this year. Sophomore Trevor Stangle (Camarillo HS) competed in only two races in 2014 and sat out last season, yet the Cougars expect him to put it all together this season. Locher says, “He is a man transformed! He is working hard and keeping healthy. He should blossom in the post-season.” 2015 All-WSC choice Aramis Knox (SLO HS) joined McDermott at the 2015 CCCAA State Meet as the second Cougar to cross the line, albeit in 60th place. Locher says, “ He is talented and staying on plan. He should be up in the pack.” Freshman Kobi Kelly (SLO HS) was an all-League harrier for the Tigers and the Cougars are ready to see him make a move in competition. Locher says, “He plugs along in practice, but turns it on in races.” Freshman Cam Goldstone (Tahoe City) is another, like McDermott, high altitude runner looking for success at sea level.  Goldstone was an all-State (Nevada) runner at North Tahoe High and Locher says, “He has a good pace and has the potential to score.” 2014 All-WSC Honorable Mention selection Cody Griffith (Yreka HS) is back after redshirting in 2015. Griffith did not compete at the 2014 CCCAA State Meet, however the Cougars expect him to help take the team back for a ninth straight year.   Freshman Angel Virgen (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) could be a force late in the season. The three-time all-Los Padres League selection took time off after the high school, but could make a big jump in time for the post-season.   Freshman Jared Serna (Santa Ana: Foothill HS) has sat out the past two seasons and the Cougars are working to get him, literally, up to speed.


Women’s Team

The women have reached the state meet six times over the past eight years, including 16th place in 2015. The women bring back five runners from last year’s team, including four members of the CCCAA State team. A strong veteran core is the key to the Cougars’ continued success, however it is the freshmen that will push the team into title contention. The Cougars bring in 2016 CCCAA State Track and Field Finalist Miranda Daschian (Atascadero HS), who the Cougars expect to lead the pack and push the Cougars towards the top of the state rankings. Coach Locher says, “This team is tough minded and challenging races.”  

First-year Harrier Miranda Daschian (Atascadero HS) sat out last cross-country season to concentrate on track and field. Her pal n paid off and, she posted a pair of Cuesta All Time Top 10 times in the Mile and 5K finished 5th at the CCCAA State Meet in the 1,500-meters. This year, she will build up her mileage on the course and Locher says, “She could run for a state title! She is putting in the work.” Freshman Leza Cassidy (Arroyo Grande HS) was the two-time Team MVP of a pair of Los Padres League title teams. She is coming off an injury, but Locher expects her to run with Daschian at the front of the pack. He says, “She should be Top 5 at state!”  2015 All-WSC Second Teamer Taylor Witcher (Nipomo HS) is the team’s top returnee. Witcher knows how to win and was the Cougars’ top runner in three of the team’s seven races last season, however she was battling an illness on her way to the CCCAA Meet, where she finished 95th. Locher says, “She is very talented. She is a battler, a workhorse and crushes hills.” Newcomers Briana Nunez (South Pasadena HS), Savannah Rigney (Lake Arrowhead) and, Samantha Duston (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) shall also make an impact. Locher says of Nunez, “She has trained all summer and is ready to go!”   Rigney spent her freshman season at Evergreen State (NAIA) in Olympia, Washington, but the Geoducks dropped the program and she has been out of competition the past few seasons. Locher says, “She has a lot of potential, but needs to get healthy and knock off some rust.” Duston’s father Jay Duston led Cuesta Men’s Water Polo to a pair of conference titles (1980 & 1981) and the four-time varsity athlete brings plenty of athleticism to the course. Locher says, “She has a tremendous work ethic, we just have to find her happy spot (for training).” Sophomore Chloe Fleischer (St George, UT) missed the first two and last three races of the 2015 campaign, but is back and poised for a big sophomore campaign. Locher says, “She has been putting in 40 to 50 mile weeks all summer and should be in the middle of the pack.” Fellow sophomores Teegan Trimble (Templeton HS), Taylor Mariucci (Templeton HS) and, Kirstyn Mills (Oceano: Arroyo Grande HS) are all back to make another run at the CCCAA State Meet. Trimble and Mariucci, the daughter of Cuesta Athletic Director Bob Mariucci, both took the spring off from track to compete for the swim team, however the multi-sport athletes have been getting their legs back this fall. Locher would like to see Trimble get out of her “comfort zone” and thinks she can move up the pack. Mariucci concentrated on the longer events during swim season and those extra laps appear to be paying off as she transitions back to cross-country. Locher says, “She is fitter this season and should be better.” Sophomore Kirstyn Mills (Oceano: Arroyo Grande HS) made huge drops during her freshman season. She went from 26:52 at the season opening Tour de Cuesta to 22:37 at the 2015 CCCAA State Championships. The Cougars expect those drops to keep coming during her sophomore campaign.