Texas advances to NCAA Championships after successful runs in College Station

Brooke Nevins

The wind and rain were no match for the Texas men’s and women’s cross country teams Friday morning as both programs qualified for next week’s NCAA National Championships with second-place finishes at NCAA’s South Central Regional meet in College Station.

The men, led by John Rice, qualified for Nationals with 76 points. They are headed to the championship for the 10th consecutive season.

Rice finished sixth overall with a time of 31:44.3. Finishing second for Texas and ninth overall was Sam Worley, closely followed by Alex Rogers, who placed tenth overall and third among the Longhorns.  

“It feels great to qualify and I’m pleased to have played a part,” Rice said after the meet. “We’ve done it for a decade straight, so we’ve really been looking forward to getting back on Nov. 17. We definitely don’t take anything for granted, but we just needed to come in and get the job done.”

Garek Bielaczyc and Jake Johnson rounded out Texas’ top five, finishing 15th and 39th overall, respectively.

The Longhorn women qualified for the second consecutive season with 99 points. Destiny Collins paced the Longhorns, finishing seventh overall with a time of 20:46.5 to earn All-Region honors.

Also earning All-Region honors were Alex Cruz, who finished second for the Longhorns and ninth overall, and Abby Guidry, who ran a season-best of 21:28.1 to finish third for Texas and 20th overall.

Cruz said the women showed what they are capable of by finishing well, despite the cold wind and muddy course, and are looking to finish the season with another top finish.

“We knew today was a day where we had to embrace the conditions and run with integrity to qualify for NCAAs,” Cruz said. “The girls are so ecstatic for running a great race and punching that ticket is just another move in the right direction for Texas distance.”

The Longhorns are now turning their focus to the NCAA Championships, which will be held on Nov. 17 at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wisconsin.

Men’s distance coach Pete Watson said the men’s team was brilliant and “executed perfectly,” and is ready to capitalize on its season-long preparation for Nationals.

“Moving forward, the goals haven’t changed,” Watson said.  “Today showed the process and training and worked and that the team is fit. Now we line up against the best teams in the country and give it a go.”

Women’s distance coach PattiSue Plumer said that despite the “ups and downs” of this season, the women ran their best race when it counted most and are focused on the most important race yet.

“The ladies were so excited,” Plumer said.  “They know all the work and challenges that went into this. Today, they will savor this accomplishment, but they’ll be ready to get back to work, refocus our efforts to help achieve our goals next week at Nationals.”