Women’s cross country prepares to run through final leg before championship season

Emily Barton and Sam Bellessa

Texas women’s cross country will reignite the famous in-state rivalry with Texas A&M when it travels to College Station, Texas, to compete in the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Saturday. It will be the final meet for the Longhorns before the Big 12 Championship on Nov. 2.

The race this weekend will be the first 6k for the Longhorns since Sept. 28 at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Springfield, Oregon, where the team finished seventh overall. Senior Kathryn Gillespie was the Longhorns’ top finisher, posting a time of 20:34.2 to beat out fellow Longhorn senior Destiny Collins by a tenth of a second.

Both times were impressive. However, the Horns will have some serious competition in College Station. Several ranked teams will make up the field this weekend, including Texas A&M, California Baptist University, Florida and LSU. The Gators are the defending champions of the invitational, and both Cal Baptist and Florida have runners who have posted faster times in the 6k event than Gillespie and Collins this season.

Texas is no stranger to performing in College Station. In 2018, Collins finished fourth overall in the 6k, and Texas came away fourth on the leaderboard as well.

Texas is coming off of a second overall finish in the 5k two weeks ago at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Texas women’s distance coach PattiSue Plumer said the second-place finish was “a good springboard for championship season.” The end of October is a crucial time for the team as it decides who’s going to make it into November.

With less than a month before the Big 12 Championship on Nov. 2 and the South Central Region Championship on Nov. 15, Texas will get a chance to measure its strength against competition it will be facing shortly. Of the teams competing this weekend in College Station, 16 are from the South Central Region and four are from the Big 12.

The Longhorns are currently ranked No. 2 in the South Central Region. If they are able to keep up that positioning, it will mean they will get an automatic bid to the NCAA championship in late November.

As far as the Longhorns being able to compete for a championship, “They decide,” Plumer said. “If they can do it, we take them. We’re super capable and they deserve to be there.”