Cross country gears up for new season

Claire Cruz

Cross country is looking to go the distance in 2016. 

Both the men’s and women’s teams will kick off competition in Nacogdoches, Texas, on Sept. 2 for the Stephen F. Austin Invitational meet. The Longhorns had a successful 2015 season, qualifying both squads for the NCAA Cross Country Championships despite a lack of experience. Both teams finished the year No. 31 in the nation.

“We are young, but now we must cross over from being young to being good,” assistant coach Brad Herbster said after the National Championships on Nov. 21, 2015. “We have the people in place more than capable to step up and contribute in a big way.”

Redshirt sophomore Connor Hendrickson and sophomore Alex Rogers highlight the men’s team heading into the season. They finished No. 18 and No. 20, respectively, at the Big 12 Championships, helping Texas earn a third-place finish.

During the track and field season, head coach Mario Sategna compared Rogers to a Longhorn legend for his winning attitude.

“[Rogers] has the mindset that he is going get it done,” Sategna said on May 28. “The last person I saw that had that attitude that he wasn’t going take no or wasn’t going take losing, was Leo Manzano, one of our all-time greats.”

Seniors Sandie Raines and Mary Beth Hamilton will lead the women’s team. The pair pushed Texas to an NCAA Championship appearance for the first time since 2012 last season. Raines finished No. 23 at Big 12 Championships last October while Hamilton followed closely at No. 29. The duo helped Texas secure a sixth-place finish.

Texas will also feature several top recruits on both teams. 

Garek Bielaczyc, Spencer Dodds and Daniel Golden are three of the nation’s top young distance runners. Golden is the Texas Class 6A Cross Country State Champion and is expected to become a big addition to the men’s roster.

Destiny Collins headlines the women’s class as a standout who went undefeated in all 3,200-meter events she ran in 2015. Fellow Californians Taylor Walker and mid-distance runner Skyler Bollinger are also big additions for the Longhorn women.

We have a great foundation and this signing class will help us tremendously,” Sategna said following the early signing period last November. “We’re well on our way to doing some wonderful things.”