Women’s cross country ready to race in California

Jori Epstein

No. 27 Texas races to the West Coast for the Pac 12 Preview Elite Invitational 5K Friday, Sept. 21. The event will start at 7:40 p.m. CST at Robinson’s Ranch Golf Course, and Texas is ready to start the season with a bang. The Longhorns won four meets last season on the way to a second-place finish in the Big 12 Championships. That tournament’s all-league honors juniors Marielle Hall and Sara Sutherland are anticipating this week’s race.

“[Hall] is a blue-chip caliber athlete,” seventh-year assistant coach Stephen Sisson said. “This year we’re working on balancing her speed element and strength element so she can be successful. She’s a proven conference competitor but one who really wants to take that next step to the upper echelon.”

As her coaches work to balance her racing skills, Hall is already balancing her many commitments. An impressive track record sums up her first two years of eligibility: She holds titles as both the 2011 Big 12 Indoor 1000-meter champion and the UT school record holder for the indoor mile, with a time of 4:43.53 in the distance medley relay. Yet these athletic accomplishments don’t preclude academic excellence. Although Hall devotes long hours to practice, she has still maintained a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester.

Hall joins upperclassmen Laleh Mojtabaeezamani, Anne Jones, Sara Sutherland, Megan Siebert, Jessica Harper and Brittany Marches as leaders for this weekend’s team. Academic sophomores Jenna Read and Marissa Lee step up to the line as well, welcoming classmate Alaina Perez to her first match following a redshirt season. Freshmen Kendall Howen and Claire Andrews complete the lineup. The impressive newcomers finished their high school careers as a 3200-meter track state finalist and all-region cross country honoree, respectively. With the solid lineup, Sisson brims with confidence in his team.

“Believe me, they’re competitive,” Sisson said. “They see the beauty in each other, but they’re competitive enough to take their strengths and keep working to try and become better. They want to beat each other, but they don’t want to beat each other at the expense of the other. They’re learning how to lift each other up.”