Cougars look forward to next season

The UH men and women’iacute;s cross country teams will not be heading to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. on Monday.

Senior men’iacute;s runner Stephen Magness finished 11th at the NCAA South Central Regionals, coming within six-hundredths of a second from qualifying for the NCAA Championships. That put an end to the 2007 UH cross-country season.

"Magness had his best race of the year," head coach Ryan Turner said. "We are all really proud of Steve. He has put in a lot of work this year. I don’t think this is going to be the end for Steve. I think we will be seeing a lot of good things from him in the future."

Men’s sophomore runner Daniel Martinez said that Magness put in the training necessary to succeed, but came up just short.

"It was disappointing to not see Magness qualify for the NCAA Championships because he was so close," Martinez said. "He has done a tremendous amount of work this season."

For Turner, the loss does not mean the season was an unsuccessful one for both teams, but a chance to improve for next season.

"I feel very pleasant with the way we finished the season overall," Turner said. "This season is definitely something we can build off of."

Martinez knows the team has gained valuable experience for future races, and will use their shortcomings this season as motivation.

"I think this season was a growing season for a lot of the guys on the team," Martinez said. "We have some strong leaders that will help the team, and everyone has learned a whole lot. Just the thought that we were so close this season will give us some motivation."

Sophomore women’iacute;s runner Jessica Cook shares many of Martinez’s sentiments.

"I think this year was a wake-up call, but I think next year we will do better as a team," Cook said. "We know what we need to accomplish now, and we can look back at this season and move forward."

For Turner’s teams, the off-season will require more long-distance running, with adequate rest in between.

"I think we are going into a transition phase by getting the runners rested, but not just a physical rest, but an emotional one as well," Turner said. "Cross country running is year-round. I think the runners understand the importance of what a summer can do for them."

Martinez and Cook both hope to put in more long-distance running during the off-season, which will help in the longer races next year.

"The main goal for me this off-season is to build strength in my legs for next season," Martinez said. "One of the problems this year was that my legs didn’iacute;t have the necessary strength to compete towards the end."

Martinez isn’iacute;t the only player set on striving for improvement in the off-season.

"I will run a whole lot more over this summer than I did last summer," Cook said. "I want to make sure I get in a lot of miles and that I am a little more prepared."

Turner hopes his recruiting work, in addition to the returning UH runners, will help in his team’iacute;s success next season.

"I think (with) adding more strength and depth with the incoming freshman class, in combination with the runners we have now developing and improving, we are heading in the right direction for next season," Turner said. "I think we will see a lot of good things."

Many of the cross-country runners will be competing on the track team, which begins its indoor season on Jan. 12, 2008 at the Houston Indoor Opener.

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