On Saturday at Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park, Texas will attempt to outrun its history.
The Texas men be competing for their first Big 12 championship in cross-country. Texas was ranked 24th in the most-recent USTFCCCA poll, which was released on Oct. 17. Oklahoma State was ranked 10th while Iowa State was voted in a slot ahead of UT.
Since its first meet in 1996, the Big 12 has only crowned two champions: Colorado (1996-2007) and Oklahoma State (2008-16). Texas is a five-time runner-up during that span. UT finished third in 2016.
“This year, we have our own group (who are) very confident, but they’re also very hungry to do well at the Big 12s, especially with it at home,” Texas coach Brad Herbster said. “There’s high expectations on both the men and the women.”
Texas has been paced this fall by lead runners Alex Rogers, Connor O’Neill and Sam Worley. Rogers, though, insisted this week that the Longhorns will need good runs from Garek Bielaczyc, Eric Kroon, Charles Mills, and John Rice on Saturday. Teams are scored based on the finishes from their top five runners, and tiebreakers could come down to the performances of a school’s sixth- or seventh-best competitors.
“Those guys are going to be the difference when it comes down to it,” Rogers said. “Front group, they’re almost interchangeable at some points. The back group, that’s the heart of the team.”
Saturday’s race will cover 8,000 kilometers with the runners using a two-kilometer loop. Texas hosted an invitational meet at Old Settlers Park in September, and Rogers, O’Neill and Worley finished first, second and third in that six-kilometer competition. Texas Tech and TCU also ran at the Texas Invitational.
The Texas women will also attempt to run away with a Big 12 title on Saturday. The Longhorns will be led on their six-kilometer run by sophomore Destiny Collins, who has won two individual races this year. Texas last earned a conference championship in 1989, and the team’s best finish at a Big 12 meet was a second-place finish in 2011.