Months of waking up before dawn and long practices are about to pay off for the men’s cross country team.
Texas is entering the most important part of its year — championship season. The men will participate in the Big 12 Cross Country Championships, the first step to reaching the
NCAA South Regionals and the NCAA National Championship.
The Longhorns had early season success, finishing second at the Baylor Invitational and winning both the Ricardo Romo Classic and the Texas Invitational. But Texas struggled at the Wisconsin Invitational, finishing 18th out of 36 teams.
Head coach Brad Herbster blamed the struggles at Wisconsin to a lack of consistency. The team was not able to stay together in a pack, which caused the disappointing finish.
But the team realizes it still has an opportunity to accomplish its goals. This season, Texas has changed its focus from individual success to team success.
“When you start throwing more elements into the team there are sacrifices made, meaning extra hours of training,” junior All-American Craig Lutz said. “[Are these sacrifices] worth winning a national title? Most would say yes. Most people want to feel that. Winning nationals would definitely be an even better experience.”
Texas features seasoned runners such as Lutz, senior All-American Ryan Dohner, senior Austin Roth and junior Mark Pinales. Texas will rely on Lutz and Dohner to help them advance further into the championship season.
“We’re trying to be national champions,” Lutz said. “I feel like I’m at the national level to help us get points for the team.”
Helping Texas advance to the round will be a big accomplishment for Lutz after struggling down the stretch with injuries last season. For the team’s six seniors, this will be their last opportunity to get to nationals and bring Texas its first cross country national championship.
“This year is [our] last year here,” Roth said. “We have a really solid team this year. We want to get the most out of the last chance [we] have. For us, we put in all this work to win
Standing in Texas’ way are talented Big 12 foes from the Longhorns’ border rivals to the North.
“Our men’s team will be in a good battle with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, both teams currently ranked ahead of us on the national poll,” Herbster said.
Herbster expects Texas to rebound from their disappointing performance at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational.
“We did not do a good job of packing it in at Wisconsin,” Herbster said. “That is the focus at Big 12 [schools]. Be where you need to be when you need to be there.”
The Big 12 Championship is in Waco on Nov. 2.