Bathed in the dusky haze of the afternoon sun, the smell of freshly mowed grass hovering as an undeniable harbinger of spring, the University of La Verne baseball and softball teams on April 8 don...
Lenore Moreno, the first runner in school history to earn All-America honors, starred on the national stage and leads La Verne to new heights in cross country and track.
Thanks to the success of senior Lenore Moreno, the University of La Verne is now known by many across the nation as a cross country power.
Moreno, who has established several “firsts” in La Verne history, capped her 2012 season by placing 17th at the NCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, to become the first Leopard All-American in the sport – male or female.
“Going to nationals was a great experience,” Moreno said. “I was excited to be competing against some very talented runners, and knowing that you’re able to compete at that high level and earn All-America honors made the experience very special.”
While Moreno earned and received lots of individual attention during the fall, she is quick to acknowledge the team success of both the men’s and women’s squads. She says she believes that the La Verne cross country program has a bright future.
“It’s awesome that cross country is getting recognition on campus,” she said. “I was very happy that our men’s team reached the NCAA Championships this season. It’s great to see that both programs are receiving some attention and I think it’s the start of great things to come.”
With her first-place finish at the NCAA Division III West Region Championships on November 10, Moreno earned the Division III West Region Female Athlete of the Year award from the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA). It was the first honor of such magnitude in La Verne history and no La Verne runner had ever finished first at a regional championship.
Moreno also became the first La Verne runner to win both the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s Multi-Dual and Championship meets, for which she earned the SCIAC Female Athlete of the Year award. During the fall, Moreno was named SCIAC Female Athlete of the Week on three occasions.
Though Moreno distinguished herself as one of the nation’s elite collegiate runners, she impressed her teammates with her encouragement and team spirit throughout the season.
“Lenore is a phenomenal athlete, but even a better person,” senior teammate Andrea Acero said. “Even with all of her accomplishments, she is extremely humble and has a big heart. She is always encouraging others to do well. No one ever has a bad thing to say about her.”
That team spirit may be rooted in Moreno’s initial passion: softball.
Moreno started playing softball at age 4, and developed a love for the game. She played in numerous leagues and on travel ball teams, and continued to play when she enrolled at West Covina High School. But a casual decision to join the cross country team would eventually have a major impact on her athletic career.
“I wanted to do something that would fill up my time in the fall and help condition me for the spring,” Moreno said. “I chose to join the cross country team my freshman year. I really didn’t think of it as anything because my primary sport and focus was on softball.”
Moreno said she soon began to experience a passion for running, and she joined the track team. Not wanting to give up softball, she got the OK to participate in both track and softball at the same time for her junior year.
“It was pretty hectic, running from practice to practice, playing both sports. I often found myself having to run a race on a Saturday morning, then leave and play a doubleheader out on the softball field. It was exhausting, but looking back, I don’t regret any of it.”
After making the switch from cleats to running shoes, Moreno quickly blossomed into a record-setting runner.
“I decided to give up softball my senior year to focus more on track,” she said. “It was hard to give up something I had been playing for so many years, but I knew I was starting to develop into a better runner.”
Moreno set personal records in the mile and two-mile events in high school and says she realized that running provided more opportunities.
Moreno began her collegiate career at Mt. San Antonio College, and quickly showed the talent of an elite distance runner. While at Mt. SAC — which has a highly decorated track and field program — she set school records at both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and was ranked first nationally in the two events among all community colleges competitors.
Moreno then attended California State University, Long Beach, but after one semester there, transferred to La Verne. She said she was immediately attracted to La Verne’s environment and the overall friendliness of the campus.
“I wanted to attend a much smaller campus and one at which I would feel the most comfortable,” Moreno said. “(La Verne) just seemed to fit my personality and it was what I was searching for all along.”
A Movement and Sports Science major, Moreno plans to earn her teaching credential after graduation on her way to eventually becoming a middle school teacher.
“I want to be a teacher because teachers have the ability to reach out to the future,” she said. “It’s a challenging, rewarding, and adventurous career, for which I have a passion.”
For now, Moreno is transitioning to the upcoming track and field season, where she will compete for the Leopards, with a focus on the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
“The experience at the NCAA Cross Country Championships has motivated me for the track season. I’ve accomplished many of my athletic goals thus far and have thoroughly enjoyed my time at La Verne.”
– Story by Will Darity