Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Ready to break barriers: 2023 women’s cross country season preview

Hannan Abdikadir

This year’s women’s cross country program, with its home rubber still hot from the June NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, is primed for a new era.

If the Sept. 1 Stormy Seas Opener was any indication, Texas women’s cross country seems to have bolstered their roster even further. 

Freshman Aishling Callanan wasted no time transitioning to the collegiate level, winning her first-ever race in the Southwestern-Concordia Opener 5k with a time of 18:10.1. A tenth of a second behind her was fellow freshman Haley Harper, who still holds the Plano West High School 5k record at 17:22.

With returning talent mixed with untapped potential, it takes a coaching staff as tested as head coach Edrick Floréal’s to stay on track. With stints at Kentucky, where he led the women’s program to three top-four finishes in four years, and at Stanford, where he oversaw three NCAA titles, Florèal’s reputation is ever-strengthening.

Taken under his wing before the season was assistant coach Sarah Smith, who brings 11 years worth of coaching experience, three of which came with the University of Illinois.

Following Coach Smith to the Forty Acres is graduate student Olivia Howell, 2023 NCAA indoor mile champion and five-time All-American. After graduating with her undergrad degree last year and navigating NIL and professional opportunities, Howell is still deadset on the chase for a team title.

Coach Smith and Howell both traveled to last season’s NCAA outdoor championships not knowing that Myers Stadium would soon become home.

“A lot of times the challenging part of my job is coming in and creating a culture of success, and what that looks like, and what the expectations are,” Smith said. “The greatest thing about Texas is that our culture’s set, it’s a matter of the group rising to the occasion. And they’re certainly very capable.”

Texas will travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma on Saturday to compete in Oklahoma State’s Cowboy Jamboree, one of the largest non-championship races in the country.

Three weeks later, the Longhorns will head to Wisconsin’s Nuttycombe Invitational. In this competition, each team is required to designate an “A” and “B” group. Each “A” group is made up of eight select runners, and the “B” runs the remainder.

Stakes heighten further in October when the conference aligns with the Big 12 Cross Country Championships on the 28th. Oklahoma State spearheaded team results last year with 22 points, and Texas came in fourth with 130.

In November, hoping to follow up a championship summer, Texas will head to Fayetteville, Arkansas for the South Central Regionals on the 10th.

To make the NCAA Cross Country Championships, the women’s team must place in a top two spot in regionals, or perform well enough to be selected by the NCAA DI Cross Country Subcommittee as one of 13 at-large teams.

If Texas qualifies for another spot in the 31 teams, NCAA Championships begin Nov. 18 from Charlottesville, Virginia, and women’s cross country will have the opportunity to add to their growing trophy case.

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