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Cross country focusing on bigger picture for Rice Invitational

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Texas State cross country isn’t looking to just run a race Friday. The team is looking to better itself as a whole.

Texas State is ready to compete Friday night at the 40th annual Rice Invitational. The race will be held in Houston, Texas at the Rice Intramural Fields, beginning at 6:45 p.m. for the men’s side and 6:15 p.m. for the women’s side.

The Bobcats are not worried about times or placement—it’s all about teamwork.

“We are just very interested in making sure that we work together really well as a team,” said Coach Giles McDonnell. “Time and place isn’t really something they’re looking at. Of course we’d like to win the meet, but right now we’re just going to work on some strategic things.”

Last year the Bobcats finished fourth on the men’s side and sixth on the women’s side at the Rice Invitational. The teams are looking to improve their former placing by running together. McDonnell’s teamwork-centered game plan is to reach every runner, including Jose Angel Gonzalez, freshman.

“Our strategy as a team is to stay as a team, to work with each other,” Gonzalez said. “Last year we were all kind of separated, so this year we’re going to try to focus on running the race together from the start and ending it strong.”

The Bobcats are running against 11 other women’s teams and 12 other men’s teams—a big adjustment compared to their dual-meet against Texas last week. Notable teams competing include Louisiana-Lafayette, Houston, Rice, McNeese State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

“There’s going to be more teams on the course, so navigating your space is going to be more difficult, because at Texas it was just us and Texas,” McDonnell said. “For us it’s going to be good to learn to run against multiple teams and see if we can really stick together.”

McNeese State finished first on the men’s side and Rice finished first on the women’s side at last season’s Rice Invitational.

McNeese State and Rice were ranked eighth and ninth on the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s South Central Preseason Poll, and the Bobcats are expecting to finish among the highly ranked teams.

“I think they can definitely do better than what they did last year,” McDonnell said. “Coach Jackson was able to bring in some key additions to the team, so I think the team is a little stronger this year than it was last year.”

Gonzalez finished first for the Bobcats last year and 10th overall, with a time of 17:23. The runner wants not only his performance to improve, but also his team’s.

“To be at least top five or top seven, that’s my goal,” Gonzalez said. “But as a team, I would like us to be maybe top three instead of fourth.”

Follow Autumn Andeson on Twitter at @aaautumn_.