The Texas State men’s and women’s cross-country teams showed improvements from last year’s performance, despite having members on the bench at the Rice Invitational Friday.
“We are definitely better,” Coach Bryan Jackson said. “It’s just how much better (are we going to be) at the end of the year.”
Senior distance runner Michelle Jones finished with a time of 15:59 in her 4-kilometer run Friday, just over a minute slower than her personal best of 14:48 finishing 27th out of 132 runners. Jones, in her final year of cross-country with the Bobcats, has tried to instill confidence amongst her team.
“(The other runners) are better than they think they are,” Jones said. “If they have a bad workout or a bad race, it is not the end of the world.”
Freshman Keila Rodriguez finished 31st with a time of 16:03. Junior Kelly Trevino placed with a time of 16:25, and freshman Gabriela Ortegon clocked in at 16:46. The two finished within 21 seconds of each other, placing 48th and 60th.
“I thought (Ortegon) did a great job,” Jackson said. “She had a rough middle part of the race, but she busted something out to have a great finish.”
Junior Briana Sharp and sophomore Haley Pilcher did not race Friday. Jackson replaced the two veteran runners with sophomore Chelsea Thompson and freshman Destilynn Lindberg, who finished 89th and 110th, respectively.
“I probably had two of my top six (women’s runners) on the bench for ankle issues,” Jackson said. “We had to sit out (Sharp) and (Pilcher), but they will be healthy and fine come conference time.”
Sophomore distance runner Joseph Pena was not impressed with his 37th place finish out of 168 runners after crossing the line at 17:47.
“As a runner I am never satisfied,” Pena said. “I have a winner’s mentality, so I always want to finish first, because ‘if you’re not first you’re last.’ I did beat a lot of people that I did not expect to beat, so that was a good turnout.”
Pena and sophomore distance runner Weston O’Donnell finished eight seconds behind one another in Houston. O’Donnell used Pena to drive him to finish 47th on Friday.
“It was definitely my drive to (run) with (Pena),” O’Donnell said. “I wanted to be with the front runner and help out the team. I just wanted to take that number one spot away from (Pena).”
Junior Joseph Rodriguez finished 18:23 and placed 75th at the invitational. Last year, Rodriguez finished 89th with a run time of 18:41.
Jackson was without two runners from the men’s team. The Bobcats’ coach sat out sophomore Tyrone Jackson and junior Brian Tasson and is leaning on Pena and O’Donnell until their return.
“Once we get them all together we will be fine,” Jackson said. “I am very encouraged by Joseph Pena and Weston O’Donnell.”
The Bobcats men’s team ended the day placing 10th in the invitational while the women’s team placed seventh.
The women’s team finished ahead of TCU, Houston, McNeese State and four other schools. The men’s team finished in front of Sam Houston State, Texas A&M International, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas Southern.
Last year at the Rice Invitational, the Bobcats finished 10th in the women’s and 12th in the men’s.
“To be better at Rice this year than we were last year is definitely a good sign,” Jackson said. “You always want to be better than where you were last year.”