Returning four scorers from the team that finished sixth in the state a year ago, the Moorpark College women's cross country team may have had designs on breaking up Glendale College's six-year Western State Conference run and competing for the state title.
"I like (competing with Glendale) because it always gives us that goal, that team up there to chase," said coach Traycie Kephart. "I know that year that we do beat them our team is going to be a top contender for state."
But, despite losing sophomore Nicole Rietveld for the season to a leg injury, the Raiders enter championship season strong.
"The potential was there with (Rietveld) in top condition, but our team is still pretty strong," said Kephart. "It's a good team and it's still going to be good next year, too."
Moorpark prepared for Tuesday's Western State Conference championships in San Luis Obispo over the weekend by finished fourth in the Mount San Antonio Invitational, trailing only Glendale, Mount SAC and Pima (Az.).
Moorpark has been led by sophomore Andrea Barrera, a Fillmore High product who finished 11th in the state a year ago.
"She's a smart athlete," said Kephart. "She takes really good care of herself and she gets better as the season goes on."
A pair of freshman, Simi Valley High product Megan McNally and Newbury Park High product Clarissa Wentworth, have shown the potential to run alongside Barrera.
"Megan is a bulldog, she gets out there and she fights," said Kephart, who remembered McNally racing out ahead on the Santa Barbara sand at the WSC Preview meet. "She went out there aggressively. That's her mentality."
Freshman Emily Kelly has surprisingly given a veteran Moorpark team three freshmen among its Top 4.
"It's what you hope for," said Kephart. "You always want to bring in some freshman up there with your top returners. That keeps your program strong each year."
Sophomores Alexis Pichardo (Moorpark) and Ashley Hamilton (Simi Valley) round out a balanced and deep team, which expects to compete with host Cuesta for second place in the conference finals Tuesday.