Cross country to open season with sights on Big 12 Championship

Blanche Schaefer

The 2015–2016 season hasn’t even begun, and Texas already has much to boast. As the conference champions of both indoor and outdoor track and field, the Longhorns open cross country season with eyes set on capturing the triple crown.

Men’s cross country looks to extend its streak of seven straight NCAA championship qualifications this season behind senior Brady Turnbull and key sophomores Connor Hendrickson and Jacob Pickle. Hendrickson returns after winning gold in the 10,000-meter race at the Pan Am Junior Championships this summer. Pickle ran in five out of six meets and finished 13th at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships to earn all-region honors his freshman year.

Although the team lost several decorated seniors and is mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores, inexperience should not be a problem for Texas this season. The Longhorns bring in a wealth of talented freshmen and several of the top high school cross country and distance runners in the state, such as freshmen Alex Rogers and Pedro Nasta.

“The first team goal is set on Big 12s and to do really well there,” Pickle said Aug. 21. “We’ve all talked about it and know what we want to achieve there. … I’d much rather have a team at the Big 12 championship than anything else.”

Led by juniors Sandie Raines and Katie Ruhala, women’s cross country is ranked No. 25 in FloTrack’s preseason countdown and will try to qualify for the NCAA championship for the first time since 2011. Raines, who transferred from Arkansas, is coming off a successful first season with the Longhorns in cross country and track and field distance events. She was crowned the outdoor 5,000-meter Big 12 Champion and earned All-America honors for her performances in the indoor and outdoor 5,000-meters.

Ruhala earned all-region honors last season in cross country and turned in several impressive placings in outdoor track and field distance events.

Head coach Brad Herbster and the Longhorns begin the season by hosting the Texas Invitational on Sept. 4 at the Balcones-Spicewood Cross Country Course in Austin.
“Having home meets is great because you don’t have to travel, and you understand the course,” Herbster said Aug. 21 when the team previewed the course. “It’s a pretty hilly course, but it’ll be a fun course.”

Texas will then travel to College Station for the Texas A&M Invitational on Sept. 26 and back home to host the Longhorn Invitational on Oct. 2.