Cougars prepare for weekend C-USA championship
The UH men and women’s cross country teams are headed to the C-USA championships, which start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Santa Teresa, N.M.
Sophomore women’s runner Jessica Cook knows just how important the race is.
"This is definitely our biggest race of the year; all of our previous races have led up to this race," Cook said. "I think we will do better than we are ranked, or at least we can show everyone that we are."
Senior men’s runner Stephen Magness shares many of the same sentiments as Cook, and knows his team can make a big step up in the rankings if they do well in the race.
"It’s definitely one of the races we have been waiting for because the competition in our conference is pretty intense," Magness said. "If we do really well we should move up in the regional rankings. This is definitely the first time we will have all the guys racing so that we can show what we can do."
The UH men will attempt to tackle No. 3 nationally ranked Texas El-Paso and No. 17 Tulsa. The UH women will face a bold challenge from No. 16 Rice.
Magness said the Cougars have to focus on their own goals without giving too much attention to the other C-USA teams participating in the race.
"I know they are good, but I don’t think you can get caught up in worrying about the other teams so much," Magness said. "As a team, we just have to go out there and run our own race by executing our game plan. If we get caught up in running their race too much, it will throw us off a little bit and we won’t perform up to our level."
On the women’s side, Cook is looking at the competition from the same vantage point.
"Rice is our sisterhood rivalry and we’ve been trying to get as close to them as we can," Cook said. "There are some really good teams in the conference like Tulsa and UTEP. All we can really worry about is ourselves, and stick together as a team and work together."
At this point in the season, the teams have lightened their workloads to keep from tiring their legs out over the final three races, and it has shown in their most recent workouts.
"This week we have been taking a lot easier to get our legs fresh," Cook said. "We have done tempo runs to get our legs faster, but don’t tire us out as much. We have been looking really good in our workouts lately and we’ve been staying together as a pack, which is very important for cross country since this is a team sport."
Magness knows that easing up on the long distance runs will help his team continue to compete on the same level necessary to succeed.
"We have cut the volume (of practice) back a little bit, kind of done shorter, faster runs instead of longer and intense runs," Magness said. "We are trying to get our speed up a little bit, and taper off so we can get our legs responding and rested up."
The men’s and women’s team will run in familiar surroundings. Santa Teresa is where the men finished second, and the women took fourth at the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational on Sept. 14.
Magness, who has already run in high altitude, should help both UH teams going into Saturday’s race.
"Just knowing how the altitude affects your body when you are racing is a big advantage over teams who haven’t been there," Magness said. "UTEP has a little bit of a home field advantage just because of the fact that they train there and are used to it, but it is just another challenge for us to overcome."