Preview: Cross country set for South Central Regional
The Cougar cross country team will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas this Veterans Day to compete in the NCAA South Central Regional.
The annual meet hosts competing teams from Texas including the University of Texas and Baylor University as well as teams from Louisiana and Arkansas like Louisiana State University and the University of Arkansas.
The rules state that the top two finishing teams — both men and women — will qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. The teams that do not qualify in the top two will have to hope for one of the 13 at-large bids to get to the championships.
A third way to get to nationals is if one of a respective school’s runners who does not qualify as a team places in the top four.
At the moment, the Cougars are limping their way into the regional meet.
There was a confidence boost after both squads earned a top-10 finish at the Texas A&M Invitational. However, the team stumbled at the Alabama Crimson Classic against several of the same teams they will run against in Fayetteville.
The squad then underperformed at the American Conference Championships, with both teams placing out of the top five and no runners earning a top-15 finish.
Consequently, the expectations for what either squad will accomplish at the regional are minimal for both teams.
Sophomore runner G.J. Reyna, who has carried the team all season, will lead the Cougars’ men’s team. Reyna has had a tremendous sophomore year after struggling to adjust to the college competition last season.
The conference meet concluded a regular season where Reyna earned a top-10 finish in every meet apart from the Alabama Crimson Classic. The sophomore has shown himself to be one of the leaders on the squad and will be a crucial player next season when senior Brian Barraza and junior Blake Contreras return from redshirt.
At the moment, Reyna will be the men’s squad best chance for a trip to nationals as only three runners — including Reyna, redshirt junior Matthew Parmley and sophomore Kody Anderson — are going to Arkansas.
The women will run a full team at the regional meet with senior duo Selena Sierra and Maddie Brown leading.
Sierra proved to be instrumental as she finished in the top 10 in nearly every meet this season after redshirting all of last year. Brown notably won the Houston Baptist University Invitational in October.
Brown had taken Sierra’s place as the leader of the squad while she was away. With the two running together now, they will be able to score valuable points that lead to high finishes this year.
Regardless of the result, these two hope to leave a lasting impression on their teammates in what could be their last meet with the cross country team.