LUBBOCK -- The Aggie cross country team will compete in the 12th edition of the Big 12 Championships this weekend as Texas Tech will serve as a first time host with the meet taking place on the Rawls Golf Course.
Action begins Friday, Oct. 26, at 10 a.m. with the men's 8,000-meter race followed by a women's 6,000-meter race at 11 a.m. The top 15 individuals in each race earn all-conference honors.
Texas A&M juniors David Hebert and Sarah Balfour will each seek conference honors as they lead the men's and women's teams into the Big 12 meet.
While the A&M men enter the conference meet at near full strength, the Aggie women will be shorthanded. All-Big 12 runner Merideth Snow, a NCAA qualifier last season, is red-shirting this cross country season along with Brooke Upshaw, the 2006 SEC champion for Arkansas who joined the Aggie program this semester.
The men, meanwhile, will be without Mitch Bible, who is red-shirting, and Andrew Montes, who missed the Arkansas meet with an injury. Montes and Bible were the No. 5 and 6 runners for the Aggies at the 2006 Big 12 meet.
Big 12 Academic Honors
Three Texas A&M women were named to the Academic All-Big 12 Cross Country team this week. Sophomores Leigh Berger (Weimar, Texas) and Elizabeth Slaughter (Willis, Texas) were named to the first team while senior Kassie Moore (Houston, Texas / Clear Lake HS) was a second team selection.
Berger, who is majoring in Biomedical Sciences, and Slaughter, who is majoring in Allied Health, earned first team status for maintaining a 3.20 or better GPA. Moore, a Marketing major, garnered second team honors for maintaining a GPA over 3.00.
Moore and Slaughter will be part of the A&M squad competing in Lubbock this weekend, but Berger is sidelined with an ankle injury she suffered recently while running at the Chile Pepper Festival.
Texas A&M Men's Notes
Having placed seventh the past two years in the men's division, the Aggies seek to finish in the top half of the field in 2007. From last season's meet A&M returns three runners who placed 2-3-7 amid the Aggie squad. David Hebert is the top returning runner for Texas A&M from last season when he placed 30th and finished second on the team.
Two other Aggies returning from last year's team who placed at the Big 12 meet include Kevin Ondrasek (3rd team – 49th overall) and Joe Sauvageau (7th – 60th).
This season Hebert has been running in the No. 1 position for Texas A&M. Kevin McNab, a junior who joined the Aggies from Southeast Missouri, has been No. 2 twice this season while Ondrasek has been either No. 2 or 3 for the Ags in each of his four races.
Running at No. 3 and 4 during various races has been the trio of Sauvageau, Brian Lind and Nick Toohey.
Sauvageau was third among the team at Baylor and then finished No. 4 during the A&M Invitational and Notre Dame meet. Lind moved into the No. 4 spot at Chile Pepper after he was No. 5 at Notre Dame. Toohey, the school record holder at 800 meters indoors, placed fourth among the Aggies at Baylor and then took the No. 3 position at Notre Dame.
The rest of the travel squad to Lubbock for the Big 12 Championship race includes Matt Ross and Logan Sherman. Ross has finished as the Aggies No. 6 runner twice this season, at Baylor and Notre Dame. Sherman, meanwhile, was the fifth A&M runner at Baylor and sixth at the Texas A&M Invitational.
Texas A&M Women's Notes
Improving to sixth place last season from a seventh place result in 2005, the Aggie women were led by Merideth Snow, who finished eighth to earn All-Big 12 honors in her freshman campaign. The point total of 147 for Texas A&M was its lowest since 2002 when the Aggies scored 125 points and placed fourth.
There are five athletes returning from the crew who competed at the Big 12 meet last season in Sarah Balfour, Brenna Williamson, Elizabeth Slaughter, Emilie Fischer and Christina Munoz. They placed 2-3-6-7-9 on the Texas A&M squad last year. Balfour will be the top returning Aggie at the conference meet, where she placed 21st in the field a year ago.
Balfour has returned to her freshman form, when she led the Aggies at the 2005 conference meet and qualified for the NCAA Championships. She recently set her fastest time over 6,000 meters to place 10th at the Chile Pepper Festival, which will serve as the site of the South Central Regional meet. Balfour has led Texas A&M in the past three meets after running unattached at the Baylor Twilight.
Munoz has moved up to the No. 2 position for A&M this fall and recently placed 23rd at the Chile Pepper Festival. Having been the No. 8 runner once and No. 9 twice last season Munoz lowered her time by a minute twice this season when running on the same course she covered last year at the Texas A&M Invitational and Notre Dame meet.
Williamson has taken over the No. 3 spot the past two meets while freshmen Alie Cornell and Kasey McNorton have traded the No. 4 and 5 positions of late. Cornell was the No. 4 runner for A&M at Baylor and Notre Dame while McNorton claimed that spot at the Chile Pepper Festival.
Slaughter, the sixth Aggie runner at the A&M home meet, has been No. 7 at Notre Dame and Arkansas while Fischer was seventh on the squad at Baylor.
Also traveling to Lubbock for the Aggies are Kirsten Brown and Kassie Moore. Brown has been the No. 6 runner for Texas A&M at Baylor and Arkansas. Moore took the No. 8 position at the Aggie home meet.
Big 12 Championship Notes
Heading into the Big 12 Conference championships there are four men's teams ranked among the nation's top 30: No. 5. Colorado, 14. Texas, 18. Oklahoma State, 24. Iowa State.
Colorado men have won all 11 of the Big 12 titles contested. Last season the Buffalos scored 36 points for the victory. Texas (80) claimed the runner-up position ahead of Kansas (82). Oklahoma State (108), Iowa State (114) and Missouri (156) were the next trio of teams.
The Aggies total of 196 points placed them ahead of Baylor (234), Oklahoma (246), Texas Tech (254), Nebraska (320) and Kansas State (331).
Individually, Colby Wissel of Kansas seeks to defend his title while continuing a streak of three consecutive Jayhawk victories. The recent run of individual titles by Kansas snapped a streak of eighth straight wins by Colorado. Another victory by Wissel would make him the fourth repeat champion in 12 conference meets.
The Big 12 women's field features three top 30 teams: No. 14 Texas Tech, 15. Colorado and 30. Nebraska, with one more team, Baylor, receiving votes.
Colorado women have claimed 10 of the 11 titles awarded since the inception of the Big 12 and are currently on an eight year run. Kansas State was the only other team to win a title, back in 1998. The Buffalos have also claimed eight of the 11 individual titles. Colorado's streak of seven consecutive individual champions was snapped by Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego, who went on to capture the NCAA title last season. Kipyego returns to defend her title on the Red Raider's home course.
With 45 points Colorado won last year's meet over Texas Tech (64) and Nebraska (110). The next three teams consisted of Oklahoma State (120), Baylor (121) and Texas A&M (147).
The second group of six squads included Missouri (169), Oklahoma (172), Iowa State (247), Texas (280), Kansas (287) and Kansas State (290).