Texas cross country closes out season with national championship finishes

Brooke Nevins

The 2018 Texas Cross Country season concluded Saturday at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships meet held at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wisconsin. The Longhorn men finished 27th overall, and for the second consecutive season, the women placed 31st.

The Longhorns traveled to Madison coming off a strong performance last weekend at the NCAA South Central Regional meet, where both teams placed second to qualify for Saturday’s race. It was the women’s sixth appearance in 15 seasons and the men’s 10th consecutive time to qualify for the national meet.

Despite less-than-desirable finishes at nationals, women’s distance coach PattiSue Plumer believes the program is headed in the right direction.

“We were proud to once again qualify for NCAA Cross Country Championships this year,” Plumer said. “Although today didn’t go as we had hoped, qualifying for this meet is the positive that we will take away from this season.”

Alex Cruz led the women for the first time this season with a time of 21:36.09. Coming in second for the Longhorns was Destiny Collins with a time of 21:46.55, while Madeline Vondra finished third.

According to Plumer, the women started well, but chilling temperatures and a snowy course caused issues for Texas as the race continued.

“We were right where we wanted to be early on, but we were not prepared for the cold and snowy conditions, which kicked our butt as the meet went along,” Plumer said. “We’ll move forward and get ready for indoor track season now.”

In his last cross country race competing for Texas, Alex Rogers led the Longhorn men with a time of 30:32.53 to their best National Championship finish since 2014. Following closely behind was John Rice with a time of 30:46.74, with Sam Worley placing third. Rounding out Texas’ top five were Jake Johnson and Garek Bielaczyc.

Men’s distance coach Pete Watson said the team was aggressive early but faded late into the race, and that while the top runners ran well, the men struggled to be competitive overall.

According to Watson, the team has had “massive issues at (position) five” this season, and Saturday was no exception. Still, he knows what the Longhorns are capable of.

“We are trying to turn this program around and sometimes it can be difficult to erase the memories of past failures,” Watson said. “I need to make sure these boys are prepared physically and emotionally and can start to believe that Texas Cross Country can compete with the best.”

The indoor season will commence at the Reveille Invitational in College Station on Dec. 8.