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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cross Country

Barraza ready for his final race


pre-nationals

Brian Barraza started the season strong with a win at the Texas A&M Invitational. That momentum has carried him all the way to a third appearance at the NCAA Championships. | Courtesy of Shawn Price of Texas A&M Athletics

For the third time since 2012, the University of Louisville will host the NCAA Cross Country Championship in Kentucky.

For redshirt senior Brian Barraza, this is his third consecutive trip to the championships. Barraza redshirted in 2016 but qualified both in 2014 and 2015. This year’s meet is his final chance to win a medal for Houston.

Barraza qualified for the meet with a second-place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional, where Emmanuel Rotich of Tulane outperformed him for the second time.

Were it not for Rotich, Barraza would have been the American Athletic Conference champion. Instead, he had to settle for the silver medal, still his best finish ever.

Barraza will be the only runner representing the Cougars in Louisville on Saturday. The men’s team placed sixth out of 24 teams at the regional, leaving them four spots below the threshold for team qualification. Only the top-two teams from each regional competition travel to the championships.

But Barraza has performed well this season. In addition to his silver medal at the conference meet, he has a victory at the Texas A&M Invitational under his belt.

The only meet where he placed outside the top three was the Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 14, when he placed 10th out of more than 200 runners. But the experience of running on the national meet course already is something that should benefit Barraza when he lines up Saturday.

Barraza’s final race marks the end of one of the best cross country careers in recent memory for the Cougars.

When Barraza first qualified for the national championships, it had been three years since any other Cougar had done so. But since the 2014 season, he has remained consistent day in and day out.

He remained a model for his teammates to follow and a constant source of motivation to those around him. In both cross country and track and field, Barraza has represented the Cougars and the United States numerous times.

Although he still has one final season of track and field left, Saturday is his last chance to write one more accolade on his list of cross country accomplishments at UH.

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