By Taylor Saugstad
The season is under way for Cuesta menâ€™s and women’s cross country teams.
Cuestaâ€™s season began with its first meet at the Oxnard Invitational on August 26th, with the menâ€™s team coming in sixth and the womenâ€™s team coming in second.
With athletes running 70 to 80 miles a week in preparation, hopes that our cross country teams will win their first ever Western State Conference championship are higher than ever before.
Last year, Cuestaâ€™s men finished third in the WSC and 11th in the State Championships, making it their second best finish in school history. The men have never finished #1 in the WSC and have yet to place in the top five at the State Championships. The only teams getting in the way of the WCS title are College of the Canyons and Glendale College, who took first and second last year, respectively.
The menâ€™s team have three returning runners including their two top scorers, Sean McDermott and Aramis Knox. Third year runner Trevor Stangle is also expected to make a contribution to the team.
Sean McDermott won two races last year and is Cuestaâ€™s best runner. He finished 5th at the State Championships and was the top freshman in the state. McDermott is vying for first in the WSC and battling for the individual title at the State Championships.
â€This season I plan on the team making it to state on both the girls and boys side,â€ said Sean McDermott, menâ€™s team captain. â€œPersonally I think I can achieve first in the conference and seventh at State.â€
Men’s cross country aren’t the only ones with high hopes this season.The Cuesta women are looking towards placing in the top three of the Western State Conference and finishing in the top five at the State Championships.
Last year they finished in fourth place in the WSC and placed 16th at the State Championships.
The womenâ€™s team has six returning runners and they have added some local talent to the roster.
Leza Cassidy, a freshman from Arroyo Grande High and a native of Ethiopia, was the countyâ€™s top runner in high school. Sheâ€™s looking to become the WSC champion and being in the top five at the State Championships. She will be competing against fellow Cougar, Miranda Daschian.
â€œThereâ€™s a girl, Leza Cassidy. She was incredibly fast in high school, so hopefully when she gets her fitness back up, she had an injury, sheâ€™ll be running right there with me,â€ said Miranda Daschian, the womenâ€™s team captain and second year psychology student. â€œTheoretically, by the end of the season she should end up faster than me.â€
Daschian was brought over from Cuestaâ€™s track and field team where she excelled in the 1,500 meter sprint. The last time she competed in cross country was at Atascadero High. At her first race of the season, she finished first out of the entire WSC. She will be competing for a top three finish in the WSC and a top five finish at the State Championships.
As the season progresses, top returners Taylor Witcher and Chloe Fleischer look to make a push for the All-Conference team.
Both teams are looking towards having Cuestaâ€™s best cross country team in school history.
â€œWe have some good talent this year on both sides of the team,â€ Daschian said. â€œWhich is pretty exciting, especially since Cuesta doesnâ€™t get that kind of talent.â€