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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Cross Country

Freshman wins first collegiate tournament

UH cross country coach Steve Magness said he had a lot of confidence in this year’s team, but it wasn’t until last week’s meet that he learned what his new lineup was really capable of.

Freshman Brian Barraza won first place in the men’s division at the Baylor Twilight Invitational on Friday in Waco.

Barraza exceeded his coach’s expectations.

“I expected him to get top 10,” Magness said of Barraza. “I knew he was ready to go, but… I think it’s very rare for a freshman to do so well. But I didn’t expect him to win.”

Barraza crossed the finish line with a time of 18:19.9 during the 6,000-kilometer run. He was five seconds ahead of University of Texas senior Will Nation. He received another honor on Monday, too.

League officials announced that Barraza won the title of American Athletic Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Week. It was the first title of its kind to be given this year.

Freshman Amber Hawkins, the first of the UH women to cross the finish line, also impressed with a time of 14:47.3 for the 4,000-kilometer run. She came in 23rd overall.

“I think it’s a big transition to go from high school to college,” Magness said. “For Amber to lead the team was really impressive.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior Drevan Anderson-Kaapa and junior Yonas Tesfai, didn’t compete in the contest. Anderson-Kaapa is battling injuries while Tesfai took the first meet off. Both are on deck to run at the Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational on Friday, Sept. 13, Magness said.

“I think (we’re) really prepared. Since we got back to school, we put in work,” Magness said. “Everyone has stepped up their game. We have two weeks to make further improvements for the Rice game.”

Magness said that competition between Barraza and Tesfai should make for an interesting and successful season.

“We’re probably gonna have one of the best one-two punches in the state and possibly the region.”

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