Cross country falls short as season finishes
The 2016 American Athletic Conference Championships in Cincinnati ended as an overall disappointment for the men and women of the Cougar cross country team. Both teams entered aiming for a top-five finish, but each squad seized an eighth-place finish out of the nine teams.
Cross country wraps up their season having competed consistently overall.
Apart from the Alabama Crimson Classic, the Cougars placed in either the top 10 or five at each meet they ran in. This was heavily in part due to the emergence of sophomore runner G.J. Reyna for the men and the return of redshirt senior Selena Sierra for the women.
With head coach Steve Magness opting to redshirt Brian Barraza and Blake Contreras — the top two returners from last season — Reyna was able to take the position as the leading runner for the men and score valuable points all season.
As for the women, Sierra provided a spark to the women’s squad. Alongside fellow senior Maddie Brown, Sierra retook her spot as team leader and keep her teammates competitive this season.
Reyna and Sierra were the top-two finishers for their respective squads all year and had hopes of finishing in the top 15 to earn all-conference honors and capstone their impressive seasons.
However, while both athletes were the top placers for the Cougars in Cincinnati, neither managed to break into the top 15. Reyna placed 23rd with a time of 25:38.6 in the men’s 8K while Sierra placed 22nd with a time of 21:39.2 in the women’s 6K.
Magness will now switch his attention to the track team.
Typically, several members of the cross country team compete in the distance meets for track. Barraza and Sierra notably have excelled at them in the past.
Not everyone in the cross country squad will transition to track, but Magness will aim to have athletes ready for the indoor season this winter.
Once summer workouts start again for cross country, Magness must determine who will be the new leader for the women’s squad since both Sierra and Brown graduating.
On the men’s side, there is much optimism that next year’s squad will make a big push.
With Barraza and Contreras returning as well as the emergence of Reyna, the 2017 men’s team will be stacked with athletes ready to compete for the Cougars.