This spring, Scott Guerrero will finish up his 14th year as head men's and women's track coach at the University. In the fall, Guerrero coaches the men's and women's cross country programs. Asst. sports editor Jameson O'Neil sat down with Guerrero to discuss this year's team, the differences between his two seasons and the goals he puts in place for his athletes.
Jameson O'Neil (J.O.): How has this year's track season been going compared to the cross country season last fall?
Scott Guerrero (S.G.): Obviously, we had a great ending to the cross country season. [Senior] Koby Pederson became the first male in LMU history to make it to the National Championships. He's redshirting this spring, so we're going to keep him around for a fifth year, which is great. But track is just a different animal. The West Coast Conference doesn't sponsor track, so there's no conference championship. So, technically, we're independent –– we don't belong to a conference. Depending on how you look at it, I see it as a big plus, just because it really becomes entirely individual. There can be a team element to it as well, where you've got these teams going after each other, but we can't participate in that because we don't have all the [event groups]. The way that you qualify for the postseason––to get to the regional meet or to get to the national meet—is entirely individual. So, even though they crown a team champion at the national meet, it's just based on how many individuals you get there. So for us, it's just really all about taking everybody on our roster and helping them to improve and run as fast as possible, which is totally different from cross [country] because you have the whole team side of it as well.
J.O.: How do you keep a team atmosphere when everyone is focused on their individual events?
S.G.: I'm not going to lie –– it's a challenge, because you don't have that sort of culmination of everybody all together. It can get a little bit lonely and maybe a little bit more challenging to keep kids engaged. But, there's that balance between the "lone wolf" versus "the team guy". And we actually have space for both of those, because you can get your team fix with cross country and then in track, you still can get that sort of individualized piece as well. With our model, we kind of get the best of both worlds. But every year, around this time, I always wonder how things would be different if we had a conference championship. But we don't, so it's kind of a moot point.
J.O.: What would you say is the biggest difficulty or roadblock this spring?
S.G.: One challenge is that we had a fair amount of kids finish up in December this year. [Senior] Jack Polerecky was done, [senior] Maddi Vorgitch was done –– I don't usually have that. I feel like we had a pretty sizable chunk finish in December, and so it's made it a little bit challenging, in terms of the numbers. We're graduating these kids who are fifth-year kids, who are senior kids, who are among our top performers. So when they leave, it definitely stings because those guys are training and performing at a very high level and inspiring everybody else. So I think we do miss them on some level.
J.O.: How have the underclassmen been performing, and how do the upperclassmen motivate them?
S.G.: The freshmen are running pretty quick, which is pretty motivating. We have a nice group of young freshmen-sophomore kids. The three guys at the top of our list this season are all [freshmen and sophomores], which is great. We're losing a fairly big class of seniors this year, because we're going to lose five or six. Credit to the [seniors] for having sort of helped as a stepping stone to sort of move this thing forward. The reality is that every year it's a whole new team, because you have people leaving and you have people coming. These guys, I can't speak for them, but you would think they would want to be proud of the legacy they're leaving behind and I think that the future looks pretty good.
J.O.: What are your goals for the team heading into the rest of the season?
S.G.: The top-end goal, which is not an easy thing, is to get kids to the postseason. Track is different –– you have to qualify for the [NCAA] preliminary round, and those standards are not that easy to do. We've had multiple kids qualify. This year, realistically, maybe two or three [will qualify] — maximum — but even that might be a little bit of a stretch. The goal is to ultimately put kids in the postseason, but the sort of goal that every single person can achieve is to improve, and to get better. Ultimately, that is something that every single person can achieve, whether you're number one or fifteen on the depth chart. [There are] kids that may never make it to the national championship or to the postseason, but certainly everyone can improve and that's the bottom line.