Posted by Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
Just three meets into his college cross country career, Sterling Lockert, the Petaluma High School record setting runner, has helped lead Loyola Marymount University to strong showings in premier races.
On Saturday, Lockert was the Lions’ top finisher in the college race at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., one of the nation’s top invitational races. Lockert finished 31st in a field of 194 and Loyola was sixth among 29 teams. The teams ahead of the Lions included the winner, No. 4 Oklahoma State, followed by No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 25 Arkansas.
Lockert has steadily improved on already strong times for a freshman runner on the NCAA level. First-year college runners face the challenge of racing over eight kilometer courses compared with shorter high school distances, such as the five kilometer CIF State Cross Country Championships that Lockert ran for Petaluma.
In his first collegiate race at the UC Riverside Invitational a month ago, Lockert was the third Lions runner to cross the finish line, in 25:24 over the 8K distance.
A week later, Lockert ran second for the team as Loyola finished seventh against some top NCAA Division I teams at the Stanford Invitational, by far the Lions’ best ever finish at the meet. He finished 37th in a time of 25:14 on the Stanford golf course route – the fastest freshman 8K in Loyola history.
Saturday’s meet, hosted by the University of Arkansas, showed Lockert and the Lions continue to pick up the pace as they prepare for the West Coast Conference championships. The race is Oct. 31 at Crystal Springs Cross Country Course, in Belmont, on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Loyola finished second to Portland in last year’s WCC finals. Going into this year’s campaign, the Lions tied for second with the University of San Francisco, behind Portland, in the WCC coaches’ preseason poll.
While Loyola has yet to break into the NCAA West Region rankings, the Lions look to develop a top program. Lockert is one of the building blocks.