The Texas State men’s and women’s cross-country teams will travel east to Troy, Alabama Saturday attempting to win their first ever conference title in the Sun Belt Championships.
Led by just as many underclassmen as upper, Coach Bryan Jackson has been gearing the teams up during their three-week hiatus for a potential top-three finish.
“(I have been telling the teams) they can accomplish anything they put their minds to,” Jackson said. “It is all right there between the ears.”
The training regimen has remained the same all season long for the Bobcats heading into a stage like the conference championships. Junior Joseph Rodriguez said he has not seen anything different than what the team prepared for since the beginning.
“As the week goes on, we will be more focused,” Rodriguez said. “I am excited. I was a little bit nervous today, but it normally turns into a good nervous.”
Sophomore Joseph Pena has been leading the men in his races during the season and has put together two top-10 finishes at the Islander Slash in Corpus Christi and at the Incarnate Word Invitational.
“I am just confident,” Pena said. “We are going to do something great.”
The women’s team has been led by the freshman Keila Rodriguez who came to the Bobcats as a half-mile runner and has become one of the team’s consistent distance runners. Rodriguez has been finishing better than senior distance runner Michelle Jones. Rodriguez has also finished in the top 10 once this season, which was at the Incarnate Word Cardinal Invitational Oct. 12 in San Antonio.
Freshman Gabriela Ortegon also finished in the top-10 at the Incarnate Word Invite. Ortegon has placed in the top 25 two times this season. Ortegon was able to run her personal best time of 16:46 at the Rice Invitational last month.
At last year’s conference championship for the Sun Belt, it was Arkansas-Little Rock who took home the gold for the men and Georgia State for the women.
This year, Arkansas-Little Rock won its season opener at the University of Texas-Arlington Gerald Richey Invite. The Trojans next best finish was at the Chile Pepper Invite at Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The women’s cross country team will face the reigning champion Georgia State Panthers who ran in Troy, Alabama two times this season and have had success both times finishing third of seven and first of six. The Panthers finished in the top-three four times this season.
Since the beginning of the season, Jackson has pushed the team for a top three finish and has expected full effort in each of the invitationals. It has been a personal goal for teams to rank highly as newcomers to the Sun Belt Conference.
“I am competitive, and I always think I should win,” Jackson said. “I set it up that we go into conference with three weeks of rest.”
The Bobcats have been working on a strategy to win the Sun Belt Championship meet all season. Jackson believes if his team executes the race plan, they should have no problem winning it all.
“We are tinkering on the perfect race plan for the conference meet,” Jackson said. “We just have to take the confidence from the training we have done.”