COLLEGE STATION – The Aggies return to action Saturday as they host the Texas A&M Invitational on the Dale Watts Cross Country course. The meet features 17 teams competing in the University division while the high school division will include 35 schools and over 700 athletes.
Racing begins at 8 a.m. with the University men’s 8,000m followed by the University women’s 6,000m at 8:45 a.m. High school races start at 9:15 a.m. with boys and girls each contesting a 5,000m course. Admission to the meet is free. Results from the various races will be available online at http://www.flashresults.com/
Teams competing in the University division include Abilene Christian, Central Michigan, Georgia State (w), Houston, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Rice (w), Sam Houston, Southeastern Louisiana, Tarleton State, TCU, Texas A&M-Kingsville, UT Rio Grande Valley, Texas Southern (m), and Tulane.
“We will see some of the good teams from our region,” said Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “Among our team in this meet we will let everyone race, instead of holding anyone back or having them race in groups intentionally.”
The recent rankings for the South Central region have the Aggie men leading the Texas A&M Invitational field at No. 3. They are followed by Lamar (No. 6), Houston (No. 12), and Tulane (No. 13) while Central Michigan ranks No. 13 in the Great Lakes region.
Among the women’s teams TCU ranks No. 5 in the South Central and are followed by Texas A&M (No. 6), Lamar (No. 9), LSU (No. 10), Rice (No. 11), UTRGV (No. 13) and Houston (No. 15).
The Aggies swept both team titles in the Invitational a year ago. Ashley Driscoll and Kelsie Warren led the women’s squad as they finished third and fourth. Jon Bishop is the leading Texas A&M runner returning from last year’s team victory.
This weekend, the Aggie women’s crew will include 25 runners, 12 of which are freshmen, while the men’s team will have 17 entrants, eight of which are freshmen.
“This will be the first test to see where we’re at,” noted McRaven. “We will add all the freshman into the race and put them in an Aggie uniform. It’s a good chance to see where we are as a team early in the season.
“Since we’ve been able to compete on our home course a lot over the past few years, we have reference points with times that were run on the same weekend. That enables us to see where individuals stack up.”
While some Aggie freshman raced unattached in the Aggie Opener, a few newcomers will experience their debut collegiate race on Saturday. This group includes Julia Black, Laura Fairchild, and Carrie Fish. A couple of freshman who raced unattached in the Opener and placed among the top 12 in the women’s race included Abbey Santoro and Grace Plain.
“On the women’s side we have two up front that are our leaders in Kelsie Warren and Ashley Driscoll,” said McRaven. “Then we add a good freshman class. One of the things this freshman class has done is it has made a lot of the returning athletes kind of step up. It was interesting to see in our first meet how much faster a lot of our juniors and sophomores ran than they ever had before in that meet.”
The Aggie men return eight runners who raced in the team victory a year ago, with Bishop and Jacob Perry having been part of the scoring five while Brandt Preston and Taylor Clayton were the sixth and seventh finishers on the squad.
“Jon Bishop leads our men’s team and was a national qualifier last season,” noted McRaven. “We also have another local guy in Zephyr Seagraves stepping up and becoming an impact runner for us. Other developer guys include Jacob Perry and Brandt Preston, who are getting a little bit better.
“We also had a few freshmen who ran unattached in our first meet race very well. Wes McPhail was only a second behind our leading three runners while Brady Grant and Gavin Hoffpauir also had solid performances. All three will be in uniform this weekend and maybe can make an impact.”