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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Cross Country

Pre-Nationals will test cross country’s skill on key track

Redshirt senior Brian Barraza is the lone Cougar with experience running on the Louisville course, having competed at the national championships in 2014 and 2015. | Courtesy of Shawn Price of Texas A&M Athletics

The goal for every athlete in collegiate cross country: reaching Louisville, Kentucky.

On Nov. 18, top runners from around the country will head theree to compete at the NCAA championships. Saturday’s meet will be a taste of what’s to come in one month.

The Cougars are only one of 80 teams that will be running on the course at Louisville at the Pre-Nationals meet, which bears that name because it takes place at the same cross-country course that will host the NCAA championships.

For all the teams running, Pre-Nationals serves as a chance to see how they fare on the course.

For the top teams that know they will return, the meet shows them where they need to improve. For teams like the Cougars, this meet will show where they need to get to compete with those top teams.

Many of the teams ranked in the Top 25 by FloTrack will be at Pre-Nationals. These include the BYU Cougars, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Oregon Ducks, the defending national champions. The teams rank second, fifth and sixth in the country, respectively.

Head coach Steve Magness’ team understands that a conference championship is its main goal. But Pre-Nationals is officially the team’s last chance to see how it will look before the American Athletic Conference championship meet.

Redshirt senior Brian Barraza will lead the pack, as he has his entire career with the Cougars. Barraza is the only Cougar on the roster with experience competing at the national championships in Louisville. He ran first in 2014, then again in 2015.

Barraza is coming off a first-place finish at the Texas A&M Invitational. His performance on Sept. 23 saw him named American Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week for the second time in his career.

With his experience on the track, he will be the lead runner for the Cougars on Saturday. But junior G.J. Reyna will be close behind him.

Reyna has solidified his spot as the No. 2 runner on the team this season, winning the Rice Invitational and placing 19th at the Texas A&M Invitational. Along with redshirt junior Blake Contreras and senior Gabe Lara, the Cougars have the numbers to be competitive at conference.

Their performance at Pre-Nationals will determine just how legitimate their chances are of winning a title.

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