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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Cross Country

Despite early success, junior sees this season as crucial


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Junior Brian Barraza is looking to build on an already-successful tenure at UH in his third season. | Courtesy of Stephen Pinchback

Junior Brian Barraza is without a doubt the best distance runner UH has right now — possibly one of their best ever.

Barraza has set numerous school records in both cross country and track and field. He is now on a quest to add further accolades to his name.

Most recently, Barraza was victorious at the Texas A&M Invitation 8K cross country meet, an event that team manager Drevan Anderson-Kaapa feels will greatly prepare him for the road ahead.

“That’s pretty much a preview of our region,” Anderson-Kaapa said. “He took first place there taking down some tough competition. He ran smart, he’s very fit and it’s only up from here.”

Barraza is coming off one of the best seasons a runner could have both in cross country and track and field.

Barraza became the first UH cross country runner to qualify for Nationals since 2011. He set the school record for the Indoor 3000 meter run and the Outdoor 5000 meter run, finished second in both events at the American Athletic Conference championships and earned all-conference honors in the process.

Barraza is looking to take the next step in his junior campaign with this experience under his belt.

“I did a lot of studying on the history of the runners at this university and being up there with them is a great feeling,” Barraza said.

Barraza and his coaches said that last season was a lot more about getting to Nationals than necessarily accomplishing something.

But now Barraza and his coaches have implemented the necessary changes so that he can be one of the guys that the competition keeps an eye on.

“With how fast he’s been running and the way his training’s been going, he’s definitely looking at a top spot at Nationals,” Anderson-Kaapa said. “He’s got experience, he’s got the fitness and he’s definitely talented.”

One thing to know about Barraza is that he is the quintessential team player.

His personal goals — while important — have done nothing to weaken his responsibility as a team leader.

“When he finishes his race, he runs back to catch up with the rest of his teammates,” Anderson-Kaapa said. “He encourages them. He’s just a positive guy.”

The coaches said they feel that Barraza will make a strong run in everything he competes in.

They understand that the competition is going to be tough, but they are confident that Barraza is prepared to take them on.

Barraza is continuing to compete in the Indoor 3000 meter and the Outdoor 5000 meter, but his coaches are also planning to bring him up to the 10K runs.

No one should be surprised if Barraza ends up winning multiple championships on the Cougars’ quest to defend their AAC titles.

“I see him going for an individual conference championship title and of course helping the team win conference,” Anderson-Kaapa said. “If he qualifies for regionals and can get himself into a good spot, then he has a very good shot at qualifying for Nationals.”

“Every year you strive to do better than you did the year before,” Barraza said. “On the National scale, I want to get there and be an impact there (and get) the UH name out.”

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