Cross Country Sports

Q&A: Cross country head coach sees potential success this season

With his runners primed for a strong season, The Cougar sat down with head coach Steve Magness to discuss this year’s cross country team | Courtesy of UH Athletics

At 7:30 every morning, head coach Steve Magness leads the cross country team out for their morning run, trying to outrun the heat.

The Cougars are one meet into the 2017 season after running at the Rice Invitational Saturday.

The Cougar took a moment to talk with Magness about where he sees the team needing to improve and what they’re potential for success is this season.

The Cougar: For starters, how did you think the men looked Friday at Rice?

Steve Magness: The men looked really strong out there. To come away with the individual win and finish second as a team against a very strong Rice squad, was a great step. We have some bullets left in the barrel that we haven’t fired yet, so it was a fantastic first step.

TC: Who fulfilled your expectations but also who surprised you?

SM: GJ Reyna is starting to blossom into the runner we knew he could be. The surprise of the meet was Gabe Lara. As a Junior, Gabe finished 41st at the meet, so to jump all the way up to 4th this year is amazing. Our freshman, Devan Fahey, taking 16th was a pleasant surprise as well. He’s young and talented so we expect big things from him.

TC: The top women’s runners at Rice, Ebony White and Meredith Sorensen, only placed 12th and 13th. In what areas do you see them needing to improve?

SM: Having Meredith and Ebony finish right next to each other was a good step for both runners. They are both coming back from injuries, so while they just missed the top 10, both ladies have a lot of untapped potential and room to grow.

TC: What obstacles will the team face at the Texas A&M Invitational?

SM: A&M will be a back step up. It’s essentially our regional preview, with most of the best teams from the region being there. It’s going to be much tougher competition, and we’ll need to raise our game.

TC: What do you hope to see from your runners, especially returning athletes like Jennifer Dunlap?

SM: Jen Dunlap has looked outstanding in practice. We’ve always known how good she is on the track, but I think this is the year she takes some of her track speed and shows it on the cross-country course. I’m really excited to put Jen back in the mix and see if she can provide us with a presence  up front in races.

TC: How pleased were you with GJ Reyna’s most recent performance?

SM: GJ ran a very intelligent race and timed his charge for the win perfectly. He’s starting to come into his own as a runner, and I have no doubt that he’ll continue his march towards being one of the top runners in the region.

TC: What’s the outlook like for the men now that Reyna is being paired with Brian Barraza and Blake Contreras?

SM: At Rice, we had two in the top 4, and five in the top 20. We add back Brian, who is one of the best runners in the country, and Blake, who is an all-conference runner. If you stick those two guys in at Rice, we’d be right in there for the win. The men have the potential to do some great things this year, but it’s up to them to come together as a team and put in the work to see their potential become reality.

TC: How has this team recovered after losing time due to Hurricane Harvey?

SM: We’ve been completely fine. We had some athletes lose apartments or homes, but they’ve bounced back and accomplished what they’ve needed to.

TC: What’s something you say to motivate your runners everyday?

SM: We talk a lot about trusting the process of getting better. How it’s not about having a singular great day, but about stacking solid days on top of each other, so that by the end of the year, you look back and see months of good consistent work. If we do that, we’ll accomplish great things.

TC: What’s the next step for The Cougars?

SM: Go back to work.

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