Cross-country coach Bryan Jackson will take his men’s and women’s teams to the Rice Invitational Sept. 13.
The two teams finished in seventh place last month in the Bear Twilight at Baylor. The Bobcats showed there is improvement needed to achieve their sought-after goal of ranking in the top three in the conference or winning a championship.
“I’m a competitive guy,” Jackson said. “I always expect to win. We always try to figure out how we are going to win a championship but definitely (want to) finish (in the) top three. The way we’re (going to) contend for a championship is getting the gaps between (the runners) to 30 and 45 seconds.”
Freshman runner Keila Rodriguez finished 25th overall at the Aug. 30 meet with a time of 14:56.8 in the 2,000-meter run. The newcomer said she is trying to mold herself into a new type of runner for the team.
“It was my first college meet,” Rodriguez said. “I was kind of nervous, but I used those nerves to drive me and push me throughout the race. I’ve never been a long distance (runner). I am just trying to get used to the mileage and trying to get better and improving on that.”
The women’s team has what Jackson wants in order to meet his season goals in senior runner Michelle Jones and freshman Gabriela Ortegon who finished with a time of 16:20.1 for a 74th place finish in Waco. Junior Kelly Trevino finished with a time of 15:17.2 for 47th place.
“We’ll have what I think will be our top five girls all racing this weekend,” Jackson said. “It will be fun to see what they can do together.”
Jones has been a leader on the team’s record board with her top finishes in the 5,000-meter, 3,800-meter and 2 mile runs, with a second best finish in the 4,000-meter run. Jones finished 40th with a time of 15:08.7 in Waco.
The men’s team is led by sophomore runner and Adams State University transfer student Joseph Pena, who finished with a time of 19:44.6 at the Bear Twilight, placing him at 27th. Pena has come off a year break from running to help the Bobcats this season.
“This year we are hoping for a third place finish in the conference,” Pena said. “I really want to improve from last weekend. Overall, I think we need to improve on racing, staying with the pack, and then just letting the end of the race play out.”
Junior Joseph Rodriguez placed 29th with a run time of 19:45.8. Rodriguez placed second best on the team in the 6,000-meter, 7,500-meter and 8,000-meter runs last year.
Sophomore Tyrone Jackson will be heading back home to Houston while ranking number one in all of the team’s individual distance runs. The sophomore runner finished 46th at the Bear Twilight with a final time of 20:09.8. Jackson finished 74th overall with a run time of 18:25 at last year’s 6,000-meter run in the Rice Invitational.
Nearly a year ago this Friday, the women’s team finished 10th at the Rice Invitational while the men’s team finished 12th. Texas A&M claimed victory as both its men’s and women’s teams finished first last year.
Follow Josh Zigrang on Twitter: @JoshZigrang