GLENDALE â€” The academic equivalent would be clearing a midterm examination with an immediate eye toward preparing for the final exam.
For veteran Glendale Community College men's cross-country Coach Eddie Lopez, the four invitational meetings at the beginning of the season should provide a glimpse with respect to what the Vaqueros might be in position to achieve by the end of the campaign.
Make no mistake. Every meet counts in determining success.
Lopez would ideally like to see progress made early before tackling the end of a hectic schedule that might possibly have the Vaqueros challenging for titles in the Western State Conference and Southern California and state championships.
â€œWe have the talent,â€ said Lopez, who guided the Vaqueros last year to a second-place finish in conference before taking 10th in the Southern California Championships and 13th at the state meet. â€œWe have guys who are actually cross-country runners.
â€œThe potential is there. It's going to be a slower process at first, but then we can see how we develop toward the end with the marks of consistency. A top-three in the Southern California Championships and state would be fine.â€
For that to transpire, Lopez will tap into a nine-member squad that will feature seven freshmen.
The returning runners will be Steven Carrillo and Alain Perez.
However, Lopez cast a large net across Southern California and part of Arizona to reel in seven freshmen looking to put the Vaqueros in position to be triumphant and seek their first state championship since 1998. Some have local ties.
Former Crescenta Valley High standout Nathan Sellers, a former All-Area Cross-Country Runner of the Year, opted to transfer to Glendale college after spending last year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Lopez immediately made Sellers, who clocked 15 minutes 18 seconds to take second at the Division I CIF-State Cross-Country Championships in 2006, team captain.
â€œHe's got that positive attitude and work ethic, and he's like a coach out there,â€ Lopez said. â€œHe's been getting into shape, and I think he'll have some fun.
â€œIt wasn't fun for him [at San Luis Obispo].â€
The remaining freshmen will include Burroughs High graduate Jonathan Alpizar, Adrian Anderson, Rene Covarrubias, Francis Herrera, Frankie Quijado and Manuel Blanco. Herrera transferred over the summer from the University of Arizona to provide the Vaqueros with further depth.
The Vaqueros, who have won four state championships, will begin their season Friday at the Ventura Invitational. They will host the Western State Conference Preview at 3 p.m. Oct. 10 at Verdugo Park.
The conference championship race will take place Oct. 28 in Santa Maria, and the Southern California Championship will be held Nov. 7 in Bakersfield. The state meet will occur Nov. 22 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
At least Lopez might have a good idea of what to expect having mapped out a plan throughout the entire season.
â€œWhenever you get a younger team, it might be half consistent and half not consistent,â€ Lopez said. â€œIt's about putting in those miles and running out there on your own.
â€œI want to see them peak by the end of the year. It's a group that gets along.
â€œIt's going to be about seeing how they develop over the course of the year. We should have a deep team.â€