COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Hosting the Texas A&M Invitational on Saturday morning at the Dale Watts Cross Country course has the Aggies facing a field of 16 teams as they gauge how they stack up against schools in the NCAA South Central region.
“It’s going to be good for us to race again as it’s been nearly three weeks since the Aggie Opener,” noted Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “It’ll be good for us to see teams from the region as well as those teams from the region to experience our course.”
The men’s race over 8,000 meters starts at 8:15 a.m. followed by a women’s race covering 6,000 meters at 9 a.m.
A high school division of 28 schools and 770 runners follows with four races over 5,000 meters with the varsity boy’s race at 9:30 a.m., the varsity girl’s race at 10 a.m., boy’s junior varsity at 10:30 a.m. and girl’s junior varsity race at 11 a.m. Live results from the Texas A&M Invitational will be available atwww.flashresults.com.
Texas A&M women, fifth in the South Central region rankings, have a crew of 17 competing while the Aggie men, seventh in the South Central region, will compete with a squad of 18.
Racing at 8,000 meters last season, Austin Wells posted the top time of 25:31 among the A&M men returning this season. He was followed by Ryan Teel (25:36), Cameron Villarreal (25:39), and Christian Farris (25:50). Karis Jochen posted a 20:09 over 6,000 meters last season to lead the returning Aggie women and is followed by Haley Deakins (22:05), Laura Craig (22:45) and Katie Pia (22:48).
“This meet gives us some insight to see how we stack up against the region right now,” said McRaven. “The plan on the men’s side is everyone is healthy right now and all the top guns are ready so we will run everybody this weekend. On the women’s side a couple of our top girls are sick, which tends to happen at this part of the season, so we may hold out one or two from our top seven.
“We train for longer races anyway because at the end of the season those are the distances we are going to be racing. I think we’ll do better since we are a strength oriented program. It will give some of our young kids, who haven’t competed at this distance, a chance to see what it feels like and gain some experience on the course.”
Nine of the top 10 men’s teams from the South Central region are represented in the meet, led by second ranked Texas. In the women’s field nine of the top 15 schools in the region are also led by second ranked Texas, who ranks nationally at 27th.
The South Central ranked men’s teams competing in the Texas A&M Invitational include North Texas (3), Lamar (4), Stephen F. Austin (5), UT-Arlington (6), Houston (8), McNeese State (9) and Central Arkansas (10). Ranked schools from the South Central region in the women’s field include Rice (6), North Texas (7), Stephen F. Austin (8), Lamar (9), TCU (11), UT-Arlington (13) and Houston (15).
SEC schools in the meet include Missouri, whose women rank eighth and men rank 14th in the Midwest region, and LSU. Other squads competing include Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Louisiana-Lafayette, and UT-Rio Grande Valley. In all seven different conferences are represented among the schools entered to compete in the Texas A&M Invitational.
“We have the best course in Texas and one of the best in the South,” stated McRaven. “We want people to have the opportunity to get on the course. That’s what it’s all about, to provide opportunities. We have a great setting and situation with this venue. Hopefully it’s a course that gets a chance to host multiple meets in the future. It’s good for the sport.”
The Aggies will host the NCAA South Central region meet in November after playing host to the SEC Championships in October. The Watts course, which opened in the fall of 2014, is located within the new Hildebrand Equine Complex at 3242 F and B Road. The facility is accessible from F and B Road off the corner intersection with 2818.
High schools in the meet include 11 teams currently ranked among the top 10 in state rankings. The ranked schools include Awty International boys (7thPrivate), Houston Stratford boys (6th 5A), Houston Stratford girls (10th 5A), John Cooper boys (10th Private), Katy boys (6th 6A), Katy Seven Lakes girls (6th 6A), Katy Seven Lakes boys (7th 6A), Kinkaid boys (6th Private), Kinkaid girls (9th Private), and Lufkin Hudson boys (5th 4A).
Local schools in the high school division include Allen Academy, A&M Consolidated, and College Station (girls).