Road to nationals goes through Waco for Texas runners

Julie Thompson

The Longhorns will compete in the NCAA South Central Regional in Waco on Saturday, a meet where the team’s performance will determine whether they are able to compete in the NCAA Championships later this month.

Texas is coming off a disappointing finish at the Big 12 meet on Oct. 30. Head coach Steve Sisson said that individual athletes struggled at the conference meet, but those struggles are part of how the sport of cross country works.

“Fifth place is just not acceptable for us, to be in the top 15 in the country we should do better than that and we need to continue to do better,” Sisson said. “I think we learned from this, and we will do better at the regional meet.”

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association predicts the Longhorns will place first at the region meet. The association has Arkansas, Rice, Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin following Texas.

The South Central Region includes the eastern part of Texas, all of Louisiana and Arkansas. Eight other regions in the U.S. will also be having meets to determine which teams can go on to the NCAA Championships.

In order to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, the Longhorns must place in the top two in the Region meet. There are also 12 at-large bids in play, so if Texas finishes third they still have a possible bid.

“My goal is to win,” Sisson said. “My goal is to win in such a way that folks go, ‘Oh my goodness, Texas is really that good.’ It is an important statement as a team to make.”

Junior runner Mia Behm said that the team’s difficulties at the conference meet could actually benefit them at the region meet.

“We are really pumped knowing we are so highly ranked going into the region meet,” Behm said. “But I think conference is good because it is kind of a reality check for us and we realized if we don’t stay focused we won’t always perform at our optimal level.”

The team hopes to make a statement at the region meet, then go for their ultimate goal — a national championship.
“We are just really excited to have a good long distance program,” Behm said. “That combined with the fact that we are really fit and really want it combines to make the perfect storm.”