UTA attempts to set the pace for conference meet

Freshman Tyler Rodriguez runs down the course during the men's 5-kilometer race Sept. 14 at the Gerald Richey Invitational in Dallas. Rodriguez finished in the top 20 of the men's race.

The cross-country teams are in the tail end of their season with one last meet before the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships.

The men’s and women’s teams will compete at the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Saturday at Texas A&M University. Head coach John Sauerhage said the invitational will be a good test before the conference meet. The men will compete in an 8-kilometer race, while the women will compete in a 6-kilometer race.

Both teams recently competed at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on Oct. 5; the men placed 17th among 32 teams, and the women placed 16th among 28 teams. Both squads finished as the second-best placed team among Sun Belt teams that competed, with only Arkansas State University placing better in both the men’s and women’s races.

Prior to that, the men have had three top-three showings at the Baylor Bear Twilight Invitational in Waco, Ken Garland Invitational in Denton and UTA’s Gerald Richey Invitational. The women have continuously progressed this season, placing third at Waco, second at Denton and taking the crown at UTA’s home meet.

Sauerhage said the men’s team needs to post good 8K times under 26 minutes at Texas A&M. The more runners with good times, the better they will feel about their chances at conference.

“It’s going to be more challenging than ever this year, but I still think the men’s goal is to win the conference championship,” he said.

On the women’s side, Sauerhage said every athlete is in good shape, and the team’s overall talent can help stifle a bad race by one or two runners. All are solid 5K runners, he said, and their times are getting better as the season progresses.

Senior Justin Domangue has set the pace for the men, while junior Madeleine Rowe has led the women in three of four meets this year.

Sauerhage said freshman Marquentin Barnes has emerged as one of the top new runners for the team, with three top-30 finishes in his first three meets.

Barnes said the leaders of the men’s team have set a serious tone for the end of the cross-country season.

“We’re here to win, and that’s our main goal,” he said. “That’s all we’re really focused on right now.”

Barnes admitted the opening stage of the season was hard for him, but now he’s comfortable with long distance races. He said the team is at 85% of where it needs to be for the conference meet, and it is improving by the day.

Freshman Mathilde Ruud said the women’s team is ready to compete despite its low ranking in the Sun Belt preseason poll. She said the runners have discussed aiming for a strong result at Texas A&M and a top-three finish at conference.

Sauerhage said there’s a lot of fresh faces on both teams, but as the season wears on, the runners are getting in better shape and learning to compete at important meets.

“Nothing is written, as they say,” he said. “But at the same time, this team has to write their own ending.”

@_julio_vega

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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