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Friday, June 2, 2023

Cross Country

Teams struggle in final race before conference championships

At Pre-Nationals, redshirt senior Brian Barraza placed 10th out of 300 runners in the Cougars last race before the American Athletic Conference Championships. | Courtesy of Shawn Price of Texas A&M Athletics

In a field with the nation’s top cross country runners, redshirt senior Brian Barraza showed why he belongs in the pack.

Racing against nearly 300 other runners, Barraza placed 10th with a time of 23 minutes, 22.1 seconds in the men’s 8k. As he wraps up his last season of cross country with the Cougars, Barraza could not have had a better race in preparation for the conference championships.

As a team, the men placed 34th out of 41 teams. Barraza was joined by junior G.J. Reyna, redshirt seniors Gabe Lara, Chris Wallace and Matt Parmley and freshman Devin Fahey. Of those runners, only Reyna placed inside the top 200.

Reyna finished the 8k in 24 minutes, 52.5 seconds to place 147th. Reyna’s mark was the second-best on the team. Lara had the next best finish at 205th.

But the results need to be taken in context. The Cougars were going up against the very best in the country, and many of those same runners will be back in November to compete at the NCAA championships. The Cougars were the lone team from the American Athletic Conference competing at Pre-Nationals.

With their next race being in a condensed field, head coach Steve Magness should be able to pinpoint the areas where his runners need to improve and have them ready to compete against teams like the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

The women competed in the black 6k race — the fourth race of the day. In a field of 29 teams, the women finished 21st.

Senior Jennifer Dunlap led the Cougars for the second meet in a row. Out of about 270 runners, Dunlap placed 75th with a time of 22 minutes, 26.4 seconds.

For the second consecutive meet, redshirt sophomore Meredith Sorensen was the second-best runner for the women behind Dunlap. Sorensen finished the 6k in 22 minutes, 31 seconds. But despite finishing less than four seconds slower than Dunlap, Sorensen placed 83rd overall.

Dunlap and Sorensen were the only runners to place in the top 100 for the women. No one else placed better than 150th. Despite struggling as a team at times, Dunlap and Sorensen have shown they are the clear leaders on the squad.

The Cougars will travel to Philadelphia for the American Athletic Conference Championship on Oct. 28, when Magness will see if his runners have prepared themselves well enough to compete for a title against the likes of Tulsa and SMU. It now appears that both the men and women are set up to have strong finishes from the top runners on both squads.

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