COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M Men’s and Women’s Cross Country programs hosted its lone meet of the season placing third in the men’s standings and fourth in the women’s standings in the Arturo Barrios Invitational at the Watts Cross Country Course.
The Arturo Barrios Invitational featured seven teams from three different conferences and nearly 140 athletes, the largest field Texas A&M has seen this season.
"Over the last 10 days there have been a few hitches in the road in preparing for this meet,” head coach Pat Henry said. “Having to deal with different testing protocols for each conference caused some obstacles, it's something that needs to get better going forward, or the competition between conferences will be less likely to happen. It's understandable to be concerned about everyone's safety but to not all be on the same page is not a good situation."
"It was great to host a meet,” assistant coach Wendel McRaven said. “I think this is one of the top 5 courses in the country and one of the best in the region. To have the opportunity to showcase it and allow teams to compete on it is always a positive. Every coach was appreciative and thanked me for having this meet.”
In a field of 78 runners in the men’s 8k, Texas A&M got out of the gate with a strong start with three Aggies in the top 10 at the 2,000m mark. Wes McPhail was the overall leader before being bumped off the trail around the 3,500m mark, forcing the junior to drop out of the race. Fellow junior Gavin Hoffpauir led the Maroon & White at the halfway point in 16th place, followed by a group of Aggies hanging in the top 25.
Hoffpauir made one last push jumping three spots to cross the finish line first for A&M and 13th overall at 24:29.2. Joseph Benn followed in 18th (24:49.0), Tim McElaney placed 19th (24:50.4) and Jackson Jett finished 20th (24:51.0). Brady Grant rounded out the top 5 finishers for Texas A&M placing 22nd (24:52.8), while Teddy Radtke recorded a top 25 finish in 24th place with a time of 24:59.6.
The Aggie men scored 82 points finishing third behind Texas (17) and LSU (63).
"Having Wes [McPhail] drop out midway through the race and not having Eric [Casarez] makes a difference in how we finish as team,” McRaven said. “It's a real young team and for the people that did line up, I told them that I'm really proud of this team. They're getting there and figuring it out, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination yet but we're getting there. If they can keep together and keep building that culture the way we want it then this can be a really pretty good group down the line."
Grace Plain led the Maroon & White in the 6k out of the starting box, at the 2,000m split she was 11th overall at 6:48.9. Julia Black and Abbey Santoro followed right behind in 13th and 14th, while Megan Hopper, Rachel Bernardo and Carrie Fish each were battling in the top 20.
Plain, Black and Santoro continued to travel to the trail holding on to their positions at the half way point. With less than 1,000m to go Black made her kick moving herself toward a top 10 finish placing eighth overall at 21:10.7. Santoro and Plain each placed in the top 15, Santoro clocked 21:18.8 to finish 12th overall and Plain in 13th at 21:27.4. Bernardo and Laura Fairchild each recorded top 25 finishes to round out the top 5 finishers for A&M.
"We're not where we want to be but it was the best race of the year for them. Julia [Black], Grace [Plain] and Abbey [Santoro] ran very well, they close really well,” said McRaven. “Rachel [Bernardo] is starting to come around, Laura [Fairchild] is right there and Katelyn [Buckley] has done a nice job as a walk-on freshman. A lot of people are showing progress and we had some positive steps, but we certainly are not where we want to be."
The women’s team finished fourth with 80 points behind Texas (23), LSU (52) and Baylor (76).
Texas A&M will have a week to rest before traveling to compete at the SEC Championships on Oct. 30, it will be the second trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the Aggies this season.