COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M Cross Country program is set to open the historic 2020 season on Sept. 19 at the SEC Preview Meet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The season continues as the Aggies travel to Columbia, Missouri, at the Gans Creek Classic on Oct. 3. Texas A&M will return to Aggieland to host the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Oct. 17 before making a return trip to Baton Rouge to wrap up the season at the SEC Championships on Oct. 30.
"We've dealt with a crazy situation where a lot of things are out of our control and to put together the type of schedule we have we feel pretty good about it,” assistant coach Wendel McRaven said. "With everything that is going on the fact that we are able to compete and give our athletes the opportunity to get back to a little bit sense of normalcy is really a positive thing."
Texas A&M returns 28 athletes, 15 men and 13 women. Top returners on the women’s side include Julia Black and Abbey Santoro. The duo will be tested to fill the leadership duties after the Aggies lost two NCAA national qualifiers in Kelsey Warren and Ashley Driscoll to graduation. The tandem each recorded top-30 finishes at the NCAA South Central Regional in 2019.
“We have a handful of people who can step up and fill those roles, we have a really good nucleus of sophomores and juniors,” McRaven said. “I think Abbey has really stepped it up to another level. Julia Black and Abbey are sometimes inseparable they were high school teammates, now college teammates, roommates and even the same majors.”
The quartet of Rachel Bernardo, Megan Hopper, Carrie Fish and Grace Plain will each play an integral role for the Aggies.
“Hopper made a big jump in track last year, I think she is ready to make that next step for us in cross country.” McRaven said. “Carrie has had her ups and downs with injuries but seems to be finding her rhythm and groove as far as training has been going, and Grace keeps progressing along with the rest of that group.”
On the men’s side, top returners Eric Casarez and Wes McPhail look to fill the void of 2019 All-SEC Second Team finisher Jon Bishop.
“Eric is going to do special things,” said McRaven. “He was an NCAA national qualifier last year and we really started to see him come around during the indoor track season. Wes is a good competitor, he’s more of a miler and middle distance guy but he’s a good cross country runner. We’re trying to find the best strategy for him to ration out his efforts throughout the year so he’s at his best when it matters.”
Gavin Hoffpauir and Zephyr Seagraves, along with a multitude of newcomers aim to round out the core for the men’s team.
“A lot of guys have been battling for those next few spots,” McRaven said. “Gavin is probably one of the toughest competitors, he’s the kind of guy that I never worry about his ability to compete. The freshmen group is pretty good and a deep group, there are a lot of guys in the running. It’ll be fun to compete again, it’s been fun to practice and get everyone back together.”
2020 Texas A&M Cross Country Schedule
Sept. 19 – @ SEC Preview Meet (Baton Rouge, La.)
Oct. 3 – @ Gans Creek Classic (Columbia, Mo.)
Oct. 17 – Arturo Barrios Inv. (Watts Cross Country Course)
Oct. 30 - @ SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)