Former Clarion Area And Current Pepperdine University Track And Cross Country Standout Nathaniel Lerch Receives Two Great Honors

( Above image courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics – Nataniel running at the UC Riverside Invitational September 18th, 2021)

Former Clarion Area Bobcat Cross Country and Track standout Nathaniel Lerch, who currently runs both sports for NCAA Division I Pepperdine University, located in Malibu, California, recently received two very fine honors. He was named 2022-2023 Co-Captain of the both the Men’s Cross Country and Track Teams and was also selected to the West Coast Conference’s (WCC), Men’s Cross Country All-Academic Team for the 2021-2022 academic year.

First the Captainship:

Nathaniel shares the Pepperdine Men’s Captainship, which is voted on by the Waves coaching staff, with Johnathan Flint. The Women’s Co-Captains are Olivia Miller and Skyler Danley

Nathaniel shared, “I’m very excited to lead the team this year. I’m very excited to take up the mantle as Captain. It’s an honor to be chosen. I’m very excited for a great Fall and Spring Season. We have no more Covid restrictions to worry about, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a really, really good season for us.”

(Logo courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics)

Waves head coach Lauren Flores had this to say, “Nathaniel is a natural leader. He always shows up to practice with a positive attitude, works hard and encourages of his teammates. We are very excited to have him as one of our captains this coming year and know that he, Johnathan, Olivia and Skylar will do a great job leading the Waves!”

(Image courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics: UC Riverside Invitational September 18th, 2021)

And the WCC All-Academic Team:

Nine schools compete in WCC Men’s Cross Country: Pepperdine, BYU, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Portland, St. Marys, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara. The Women have ten participating schools, as Pacific also competes in the division.

(Logo courtesy West Coast Conference)

The Men’s and Women’s Teams each consist of a First Team with ten student athletes named, and Honorable Mention. The WCC website mentions the high standards are considered for an athlete to be named: At the conclusion of each athletic season, the WCC selects an all-academic squad for each WCC-sponsored sport. To be considered, a student-athlete must maintain at least a 3.20 cumulative grade point average, while also being a significant contributor to his team and in at least their second year at their school.

Pepperdine had six Men and six Women named to the WCC All-Academic Team.

For the Men, Karl Winter was selected to the First Team, while Nathaniel, Jackson Felkins, Austin Gromer, Ryan Hemphill and Nathaniel Lannen were named Honorable Mention.

(Image courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics)

For the Women,Skyler Danley, Skylar Davis, Paula Leigh, Olivia Miller, Annelies Ondersma and Riley Wright were all named Honorable mention.

(Image courtesy of Pepperdine Athletics)

About being named, Nathaniel said, “It’s a huge honor. I’m very glad that my efforts in the classroom and on the track and the cross country course have been paying off. It’s nice to see that a lot of teammates and I are able to focus on both our school and our sport and still manage both very well. I’m very honored to be named.”

And about his fellow Waves All-Academic Teammates, “I will say that the teammates that were also named All-Academic are all extremely hard workers. It has been truly remarkable to see them perform both in the classroom and in their sport. We will study pretty late in the library together. We make sure that we have everything kind of squared away for the school. Then we get up bright and early the next morning for our early morning runs. It’s been nice to be with a team that has been focused all-around, not just on the sport, but also in the classroom. And we are very supportive of each other. It’s been really, really good to have that on this team.”

Nathaniel had this to say about the great influence and help the coaches have been to the team. “Coach Loren Flores has been a great new addition to our team. We’ve had a fantastic year with her. She was there for my first cross country season, since my first one was eliminated by Covid. She made it such a wonderful experience for me and for the team, and really changed the program around, once she came in my sophomore year.

“Our assistant coach is Victor Pataky. I really respect him as a coach. He has been there for me throughout injuries and coming back from them. He’s worked with me almost every day, just trying to figure out what I need to do to better myself with running. And he also makes sure I’m good with school and my personal life. He’s been just a great resource to have and a wealth of knowledge as well as extreme motivator. So I’m very thankful that we also have him on our coaching staff. I’m very excited for the next two years with both of them.”

During his freshman year, Nathaniel focused on distance 5K and 1500 and his training has paid dividends in a huge way, as he shaved nearly a minute off his personal best 5K time since high school, dropping from a 16:32 for the Bobcats, to a 15:42 for the Waves.  

Nathaniel is pleased with the results he is seeing. “So it just goes to show how much the college training helps me with my running.

“My sophomore year, I unfortunately suffered a stress fracture during the end of cross country and early in track season. So I unfortunately didn’t have any new PRs then.

“I also ran the 1500, with a PR of 4:19 during my freshman year and then the 800, I PR’d with a 2:01.

(Pepperdine Athletics image: Nathaniel competing on the track for Pepperdine University)

“My sophomore year, before I got injured in cross country, I think I ran a 26:30 8K. And that was my personal record right before my injury.

“It’s been a great run so far. I’m excited for the next two years and I’m hoping to stay injury free.”

In the classroom, Nathaniel is majoring in Biology and plans to attend veterinary school after graduation. He helps to conduct research with a professor within the Natural Science Division. 

He mentioned another passion that he gets to continue at college. “Alongside athletics and academics, I am also a member of the Pepperdine Wind Ensemble where I play the trombone.”

Nathaniel ran four years of varsity cross country and track for Clarion Area. He won the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) Cross Country title was the District Nine Class-1A Champion as a senior, leading the Bobcat Boys to a second place finish in districts and a trip to states. He was a four-time PIAA State qualifier and three-time KSAC MVP. In track, he was the KSAC MVP as a junior and medaled at the district meet. Nathaniel was the salutatorian of his graduating class, Student Council President and a member of the National Honor Society.

(Photo by Bill Mushrush: Nathaniel nearing the finish line, in the 2019 District Nine Class-1A Cross Country Championships. Dad, Matt on left, recording the finish)

There were a number of folks who were instrumental in helping Nathaniel along the way. “I definitely want to give a shout out to my Mom and Dad. My parents have been extremely supportive of me going off to college and running.

“Even before that, in high school, they would come with me to trails and run or bike alongside me. It just means the world to me to know that I have that support from home. I don’t know if I even would have gotten into running if I hadn’t been motivated by them. They’d take me to 5K races and we’d all do them together and that’s what kind of sparked the fire for me to get in to running. So yeah, I have them to thank for that.

“I’d also like to give a shout out to coach Keith Murtha and coach Bill Grove. And then of course my coach Tammy Lerch, my mom. Those three really helped me in high school, to prep for this experience in college, to run. They gave me great memories and great training and they were always there for me. I definitely want to give them a big shout out and huge thanks.

“I should also give a shout out to coach B.J. Roth. He was more of a distance coach for track and also was always there for me. He would even come to our cross country races and cheer for me. He’d also run with us and really push us during practice. It really means a lot to know that he cared. He was just a great coach throughout my high school career.”

(Congratulations to Nathaniel on these great honors!!!!)