Women on track for success
4th-ranked team hopes to finish undefeated in conferenceApril 17, 2012
Julea Juarez is one of the Regals helping elevate the program's status.
Photo: Tracy Maple
Coach Matt Lea figured the Cal Lutheran women's track and field team would be very good.
He figured the Regals would be favored to easily win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and be highly ranked nationally.
Lea just figured it would happen in 2013.
But the Regals are a year ahead of schedule, and Lea isn't complaining.
Possessing impressive talent and depth, fourth-ranked CLU has already clinched at least a tie for the SCIAC championship and is trying to finish undefeated in conference.
"There is no question this is the best team in program history," Lea said. "I honestly didn't think we would be this dominating. There are high expectations for sure now, and they want to cherish it and thrive off that."
It's exactly what Lea envisioned when he took over the program four years ago. The Camarillo High graduate was an All-America sprinter at Arizona before transitioning into coaching.
He spent two seasons on the staff at UC Santa Barbara, where he helped the women's team capture two Big West Conference titles.
After two seasons as an assistant at CLU, Lea was given the head job for the men's and women's programs.
"I didn't know a whole lot about Cal Lutheran until I came back from college and really got into the sport even though I was born and raised here," Lea said. "But this is a beautiful campus and the area is a hotbed for local track and field athletes. If I could get some of them to stay close to home, I knew we could build a good program."
Lea has experienced great success on the recruiting trail for the women.
This year's team has received key contributions from sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners.
Julea Juarez, Lauren Rohach, Melissa Muntzel, Toccoa Kahovec, Ashley Frese, Caitlin Coomber, Kendall Sauter, Britlyn Garrett and Jackie De La Paz are just a few of the Regals helping elevate the program's status.
"I've got a mix of some very, very talented upperclassmen and great leaders to go along with some extremely talented freshmen," Lea said. "It's my best freshman class ever, and the team has really jelled together. The biggest thing is they are having fun and they enjoy what they are doing every day, whether it's on the track or anywhere else."
Although the level of success came a year earlier than Lea expected, he still believes the best is yet to come.
"It's scary how good we can be in the future," he said. "We only lose two or three girls next year and as good as this freshman class is, the next one is going to be even better and it's not even close. It's way better. We are going to be loaded."
--- Published in the Ventura County Star on April 17, 2012