Junior transfer Sandie Raines finds her stride on cross country team

Tyler Horka

Just two seasons ago, junior distance runner Sandie Raines celebrated a conference championship, a South Central Regional Championship and a 15th overall team finish in the Women’s NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Raines did not sport a burnt orange uniform as a true freshman, but rather the cardinal and white colors of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

However, the junior from Kingwood, Texas, was not present for her former teammates’ most recent triumph, a fourth straight regional championship in 2014. Instead, she had just finished her first season at Texas as a sophomore transfer. Last season, the Longhorns finished seventh in the Big 12 championships and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second straight year.

Raines said she believes that settling into her second season in Austin will make her a more confident runner and allow her to transition into a leader for her teammates.

“Last season, I didn’t really know anybody on the team,” Raines said. “This season, I think everybody had a great summer of training. The mindset on the team this year is showing everybody that we are Texas and that we are going to do well on the national level.”

Having competed in the NCAA championships — unlike all of her current teammates — Raines possesses the experience and wisdom that younger runners can look to both in practice and competitive meets.

“With the freshmen, I feel like a herder for them sometimes,” Raines said. “I have to pace the workouts a lot. Still, our workouts have been in a group together. They’ve been fast and strong.”

Raines said the desire to compete on the national stage motivates her teammates to excel beyond their previous capacities. She also mentioned how to build upon the recent occurrence of the Longhorns earning their first national ranking since midway through the 2013 season.

The Longhorns are currently slotted at No. 27 in the nation, and with only 31 teams competing annually in the NCAA championships, Raines realizes that the Longhorns must keep improving.

“It’s getting people fired up to be better than that ranking,” Raines said. “It’s brought our workouts to a higher level. We have to train and act like a team that’s nationally ranked. Going into each meet now, we are looking to improve upon that ranking.”

The Longhorns have a chance to move up in the polls Saturday, Sept. 26, as they travel to College Station to compete in the Texas A&M Invitational.