LOS ANGELES, Calif. — On Saturday morning, the gun will go off in Riverside and the Occidental men's and women's cross country seasons will officially start.
But there's one runner that has already separated himself from the pack.
Senior Eric Kleinsasser is looking to make it a perfect four-for-four, after having won the SCIAC Championship each of the last three years.
"I guess everyone is assuming I am going for a four-peat," said the Glendale native. "I don't know how the rest of the conference is, but I'm hoping for it."
Four years in college, four SCIAC Championships. It would be a spectacular individual accomplishment and a scoring boost for the men's cross country team if Kleinsasser earns the crown as the best runner again.
"I also want to do it for the team because the more points I can get us the better," Kleinsasser said.
He could have some company out in front. Seniors Will Hollingsworth and Sebi Delvin-Foltz are healthy for the first time since their freshman years and poised for a strong return.
As the team's captains, the three have been charged with leading a young but talented group of freshman, including stand out Colin Smith from Las Vegas who is expected to make an immediate impact.
"I don't want to put a ton of pressure on the team because it is so young, but I think we are the most talented and deepest we have been in the sixth, seventh and eighth spots ever," Bartlett said. "I want them to take it week by week and focus on learning."
The women's team is looking to have a comeback year. They won the conference two years ago, but slipped to a disappointing fourth place finish last season.
"I want the team to rebound this year and reestablish themselves as a leading team in the region again," Bartlett said.
The women are led by senior runners Eliza Dornbush and Anna Dalton. The women's team takes on a different makeup without a real frontrunner. Instead they are hoping to push each other as a group to success.
Occidental is hosting the NCAA West Region tournament at Pomona-Pitzer on Nov. 12
"I am really excited to host it and for it to be in Southern California," Bartlett said. "I feel that it is a great privilege to host it and I just want us to do a good job."