AUSTIN, Texas – It was all Longhorns at the Texas Invitational on Friday night as the Texas Cross Country team swept the men's and women's races each with perfect scores. Texas saw Sandie Raines cross first for the women and Alex Rogers for the men and the Longhorns dominated from start to finish.
Texas tallied perfect scores of 15 points with the top five finishers all being Longhorns on each side. UT Rio Grande Valley finished second on both sides as well. Other teams competing on Friday were UTSA, Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern.
"We really want to surprise some people this year. We have high expectations for the year and this was just one step towards the championship point of the season," said Cross Country Coach Brad Herbster. "It's great to see the group out there working hard together. There were a lot of people out there doing a lot of good things and it was fun."
Raines led the Longhorns out of the gates as a tight group pulled away immediately. She and sophomore Meghan Lloyd would eventually pull ahead to be the first two finishers. Raines posted a time of 10:25.11 over the 3,000 meters. Lloyd crossed in 10:26.90. Abby Guidry, Mary Beth Hamilton, Jordan Welborn and Alex Cruz made it a clean 1-6 for Texas.
"This was a real confidence booster for other people who haven't raced in a while or some freshmen who this is only their second race," Raines said. "We take this race as a confidence booster to tell us that we are in shape. We are working together and that in the big races to remember that and help us stay together in bigger competition."
On the men's side, it was the same story. The Longhorns burst to a big early leady in a tight pack in their solid white uniforms. Rogers left the pack behind on the final 1K loop to finish in 15:05.55 over the whole 5,000 meters.
Freshman Spencer Dodds was second behind Rogers in 15:15.36. Connor Hendrickson and Robert Uhr went 3-4. Texas freshman Garek Bielaczyc ran unattached and finished fifth with graduate transfer Allen Sumrall finishing sixth to give Texas the perfect for of 15 points.
"We wanted one through five to finish up before any other team. We knew that Texas was going to come bring the fight," Rogers said. "We're getting ready to make a statement. It was really hot outside; but if you put us on a cold course, we'll be ready to rock and roll. But it's a great starting point."
The weather conditions were no ideal as the heat index was 100 degrees at the start of the women's race at 6 p.m. Despite the hot and humid conditions, Texas executed its race plan and helped set the tone for its next competition in two weeks when the Longhorns will face a number of ranked teams at the Notre Dame Invitational.
"We really wanted them to treat today like it is Notre Dame in two weeks. So we know it's going to get out fast. We're trying to execute race plan just like we will have to in two weeks," Herbster said of Friday's race. "Our focus today was just making sure your first loop is your second-fastest loop. Fastest loop should be your last one, because it's all equal in terms of distance. Making sure we're, one, working as a group and two, being consistent in the laps."
Texas will focus on training next week and head to the Notre Dame Invitational on September 30. The Fighting Irish women are currently ranked No. 15 in the latest USTFCCCA Coaches Poll. Texas is receiving votes in both the men's and women's polls.
Cross Country Coach Brad Herbster
On happiness with how the runners performed: On the women's side, I felt we performed pretty well. I was excited to see Meghan out there with Sandie Raines and just really having a nice race as a group. It's a shorter race of course than what we'll race at Notre Dame and for the rest of the year, but just great to see the group out there working hard together. I mean, Mary Beth, Sandy, Jordan, there were a lot of people out there doing a lot of good things and, it was fun, it was a lot of fun. On the men's side, it was good to see Alex back in the mix and Connor back in the mix and Spencer racing well. We've got a lot of talent with Garek and Sumrall, but it was good to see those guys get in the mix and I think we swept it on both sides.
On what the result says about the team: We really wanted to surprise some people this year and do some things that we haven't done in a while and do it with a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Sandie's our lone senior on the women's side and Nate on the men and Nate didn't race today. But, overall, we have high expectations for the year and this was just one step towards the championship point of the season.
Senior Sandie Raines
On the strength of the team: We have a close-knit group. We've been training together, we've been tenacious. I think the goal today was to stay together as a pack and we executed that so it was really exciting.
On the team's mindset today: Going in we wanted to go out hard like any competitive race does, stay relaxed in the middle and not go too soon. With 1K left on our last loop we wanted to pick it up and see what we had left.
Sophomore Alex Rogers
On holding the lead for the whole race: We're getting ready to make a statement. I know it's only a 5K and we're going to add three more on top of that in two weeks. It was really hot outside, but if you put us on a cold course and we'll be ready to rock and roll. But it's a great starting point.
On the running conditions: It was really hot. We knew it was going to be that way at 6:30 in the afternoon. But the course itself is not too hard, only a 1,000-meter loop. We're doing five laps so it's mentally straining but also mentally helpful that we only five laps. When you get to two, I got three left and then you get to three, I got two and you finish up and you're like, that was it. But overall, it wasn't bad at all.