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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Cross Country

Trip to the NCAA Finals on the line at A&M

Brian Barraza will lead the pack at College Station as he looks to qualify for his third trip to the NCAA Finals. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

Cross country season is not over just yet. For the second time this season, the men and women’s teams will travel to College Station for competition.

The two teams will compete in the NCAA South Central Regional on Friday. The time for talk and preparation is over. If the Cougars run well, they will advance to the NCAA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. If they do not, then their season is over.

There are two ways for the Cougars to advance to the NCAA finals. One way is to place in the top two as a team. The other is to be one of the top four runners not affiliated with the top two teams.

Redshirt senior Brian Barraza will be looking to qualify for his third NCAA Championship. Barraza qualified in 2014 and 2015, winning the South Central Regional in the process. The conditions are again favorable for Barraza.

He already ran on the course once this season, winning the Texas A&M Invitational in September. He will be competing with only one athlete who has beaten him this season: Emmanuel Rotich of Tulane, who was the only man faster than Barraza at the American Athletic Conference Championships.

While Barraza placed 10th at the Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 14, none of the athletes who placed above him will be at the South Central Regional. The teams that will be there include Texas A&M, McNeese State, Rice, LSU and UL-Lafayette. All schools either placed in the top five at the Texas A&M Invitational or had runners finish in the top 10.

But while many expect Barraza to qualify easily, the same cannot be said for his teammates. The two teams struggled at the conference meet with neither team having a runner place inside the top 30. In total, the men placed sixth out of 10 teams, and the women placed 10th out of 12.

Regardless, head coach Steve Magness’ runners will come to compete Friday. If any of them advance, then they will be in a special club of Cougars to participate in the NCAA Finals.

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