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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cross Country

Cross country athlete outruns adversity


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After a one year absence, senior Selena Sierra is hoping to pick up where she left off in 2014 and be part of her teams success. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

A member of the women’s cross country team has quickly triumphed over the doubters with her performances over the first two meets in the season.

After redshirting  during the 2015 season, senior Selena Sierra is making a strong comeback — being the top finishing Cougar for the women at the Stephen F. Austin and Rice invitationals. Sierra finished second and 11th, respectively, and helped her team to second and third-place finishes overall.

The Rice Invitational could indicate how the women will perform this season, as they were pitted against tough competition, such as host Rice University and Louisiana State University.

“We were missing two girls that day but we still did really well,” Sierra said. “Before the race everyone was talking about placing in the top three, preferably two. But we all just wanted to do it for each other.

“There was a point where I started hurting, but I was just thinking about how much it meant to them,” Sierra said. “That’s really been a driving point this season: to do it for each other.”

No time to stop

Sierra said that knowing how much all of her teammates wanted a top finish helped her persevere to the finish line.

Before the SFA Invitational, the last time the cross country team had seen Sierra was at the NCAA South Central Regionals in 2014. There, she finished 65th overall in the 6K, but it was the capstone to a season in which she was consistently one of the team’s top performers.

Due to circumstance Sierra admitted that her fitness was not at optimum level before the start of the 2015 season.

Sierra’s mother was diagnosed with cancer prior to the first meet, making Sierra incapable of balancing being there for her mom and preparing for the season. She decided to redshirt her junior year.

However, Sierra has not been inactive. When her redshirt season ended, she joined the track team and performed well during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Sierra notably ended her track career with the Cougars on a high note, when she broke both her personal and school record in the 5,000 meter with a fifth-place finish at the American Indoor Championships.

Sierra is now back to cross country and head coach Steve Magness is ensuring that everyone in the women’s team has a successful campaign this year.

“He’s been really positive this season,” Sierra said. “He’s been pushing us to improve both on a mental and physical level. He’ll give us a crazy workout and we’re not sure if we can get through it, but he knows we can.”

Running with confidence

Next weekend, the Cougars will travel to College Station for the Texas A&M Invitational. Since there will be more talented schools present than at Rice, the team will need to run some of their best races if they want to win.

Sierra said that fear shouldn’t be an option.

“We have what it takes and we all practice really well together,” Sierra said. “Sometimes we get afraid of pushing ourselves to that next level of hurt. But the closer we get to each other, the better our points will be and the higher we’ll score as a team.”

It’s her final season. Sierra said she will leave nothing to chance.

Along with senior Maddie Brown, who was the top finisher for the women in her absence, Sierra is confident that the team’s hard work will translate into success this year.

“I set all these goals my freshman year and these past two years I realized I’m running out of time,” Sierra said. “I really needed to step it up. So my mileage increased, the workouts got harder. We know we can be up there.”

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