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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cross Country

Barraza places 61st in final cross country race


finals

Almost matching his performance from 2015, Brian Barraza placed 61st out of over 200 competitors at the NCAA Championships, his final race for the Cougars. | File photo/The Cougar

When redshirt senior Brian Barraza took to the course on Saturday, he knew it would be his last cross country race as a Cougar.

After consistently being the top runner for the men’s cross country team for all four of his competitive seasons, Barraza’s collegiate career came to a close at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky. Against a field of over 200 athletes, Barraza placed 61st overall with a time of 30 minutes, 19.36 seconds.

This was Barraza’s third trip to the NCAA Championships after qualifying in 2014 and 2015. He nearly matched his performance at the 2015 championships, where he placed 60th with a time of 30 minutes, 7.3 seconds. That meet was also held at the University of Louisville.

For the men’s team, the way the season ended is a disappointment by comparison to their expectations going into the season.

It looked like the Cougars could contend for a conference title with Barraza coming back from a redshirt year, junior G.J. Reyna solidifying his spot as the number two runner on the squad and junior Blake Contreras returning from injury.

After losing a meet due to Hurricane Harvey, the Cougars opened the season with the top runner in their first two meets. Reyna won the Norry Hersey Rice Invitational, and Barraza won the Texas A&M Invitational in September.

But the team managed to finish only sixth at the American Athletic Conference Championship, which was a marginal increase on their eighth place performance last season but a far cry from their third place in 2015.

Barraza, however, had his best finish as a Cougar. In his three appearances at the conference meet he placed as high as fourth. But this year he placed second with a time of 25 minutes, 6.6 seconds. His time was second only to Emmanuel Rotich of Tulane.

Rotich again outran Barraza at the NCAA South Central Regional as the two had the top-two times.

In the end, Barraza ends his Cougar cross country career with three all-conference honors, a victory at the 2015 NCAA South Central Regional, three trips to the NCAA Championships, a runner-up medal at the AAC Championship and four conference Athlete of the Week honors to go with his five career meet wins.

Barraza will now make the transition to competing in the track and field distance events. He will not be able to compete until March as he used up his eligibility for the indoor season. But come time for outdoor competition, Barraza will again line up to run for the Cougars.

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