Cross Country

Freshman nabs second consecutive top three finish

There was a rainbow-like stream of sprinters moving swiftly between the upbeat supporters cheering them on at the 38th annual Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational this weekend.

Friday the 13th was anything but bad luck for freshman Brian Barraza, who finished third overall out of 168 competitors with a time of 16:50. It was Barraza’s second consecutive top-five finish, after coming in first place at the Baylor Twilight Invitational on Aug. 30.

Barraza was the only freshman to finish in the top five — the other four competitors were seniors. Barraza said his belief in cross country coach Steve Magness’ system led him to success during Friday’s 5,500-meter run.

“I just have such faith in what Coach Magness is doing and the way he’s running the program. I’m going to do what he says to do and show everybody what it has done for me,” Barraza said.

Magness, who graduated from UH but spent his first three years at Rice, has been in his students’ footsteps and said that helps him prepare student athletes for the challenges they will face. As a Rice freshman, he was the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2003.

“I think I can relate to them a lot because I’ve been in the same races and same positions they’re going through,” Magness said.

After he didn’t compete in the first meet of the season, junior Yonas Tesfai finished eighth overall with a time of 17:02. The men’s team finished seventh out of 14 teams, while invitational host Rice won first place with 77 points.

On the women’s side, sophomore Selena Sierra placed 34th overall. She was the first of the UH women to complete the race with a time of 16:04 for the 4,220-meter run. The women finished 9th overall as a team, while Texas A&M took home the win. Freshman Amber Hawkins finished four seconds later than Sierra at 16:08, managing 37th overall.

Sierra said finishing better at this invitational was her goal. Though the women’s team finished three spots behind where it did at Baylor, Selena said her team should only get better with every meet.

The next event is the Rouge Grass Routes Grand Prix on Sept. 27 in Austin.

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