LUBBOCK – Texas A&M men placed fifth in team scoring at the Big 12 Championships on Friday while the Aggie women had two runners finish among the top 15 and earn All-Conference honors.
The Rawls Golf Course on the Texas Tech campus served as the site for the 12th edition of the conference meet amid a windy and cool morning.
After placing seventh the past two years in the Big 12, the A&M men charged to a fifth-place finish with 166 points. David Hebert led the Aggie effort, placing 20th with a time 25:24 on the 8,000-meter course while Kevin McNab finished 28th in 25:39.
“We’re pleased with the improvement we made from one year to the next,” Aggie coach Dan Waters said of the men’s finish. “We had a lot of new faces in this group and they came into the Big 12 with a mission. They did a very good job.
“If you look at how we ran and performed we didn’t have a perfect day, but we had a good, solid day. Our athletes ran really tough and gritty, so you have to be very pleased and happy with the improvement and the way they ran.”
Herbert added: “We came together and all of us had a good race. The result was just amazing. We ran together and teammates found each other. McNab and I were helping out each other up front and others were helping each other behind us.
“McNab really helped me through the last half of the race. When the lead pack took off, I wanted to go with them. That gave me a bit of a mental strain when I couldn’t, but McNab came up behind me and pulled me through the last couple of miles. It helped me a lot.”
Meanwhile, in the women’s 6,000-meter race, Christina Munoz and Sarah Balfour claimed All-Big 12 honors by placing 11th and 12th, respectively.
Munoz, the No. 2 runner for the Aggies this season, was the first to finish at the Big 12 race as she covered the course in 21:19. Balfour, who has been the No. 1 runner for A&M this fall, clocked 21:20.
“We had a positive result on the women’s side, but it was a very tight race,” Waters said. “Every cross country coach will always talk about how every runner and every point matters and a couple of points would have been really nice in terms of team improvement.”
Munoz noted: “I’ve been working really hard this season and the reward was just amazing. Running at altitude seems to affect you a bit during the middle of the race, but you have to get through it.”
“It’s an honor,” said Munoz of racing with Balfour over the last stages of the race. “Sarah is such a great runner and it’s an honor to be on the same team as her as well as all the Aggies.”
Texas A&M women scored 176 points to place eighth in team scoring, one scant point ahead of rival Texas, who was ninth with 177 points. Just a few points ahead of the Aggies were Oklahoma (170) and Iowa State (175).
“Coming out here and having a personal best race once adjustments are made with the elevation while running with the team was a great feeling,” Balfour said. “Running long stretches of the race into the wind was a mental challenge, but you have to keep focused on the task. It was difficult that it happened during the Big 12 race, but it’s just one of those barriers you have to get over and accomplish if you want to see great things.”
Waters added: “It was good for Christina and Sarah to work together and feed of each other. At one point there was probably a little bit of doubt in each one’s mind, but they shook that out and started running a little bit faster and a little bit harder. They really finished well.”
The effort by the Aggie women, who lost to the Longhorns twice this season by nine points each time, earned Texas A&M a point in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown. It marks the first of three points that can be earned by the Aggie women at the conference meet in cross country as well as indoor and outdoor track and field.
Behind the lead pair of Hebert and McNab, the rest of the Aggie men’s scoring five included Nick Toohey, Joe Sauvageau and Brian Lind. Toohey placed 36th (25:58) while Sauvageau finished 38th (26:01) and Lind, who lost one of his shoes early in the race, was 47th (26:22).
The rest of the A&M men’s squad included Kevin Ondrasek placing 51st (26:26), Logan Sherman finishing 54th (26:31), Matthew Ross was 81st (27:15) and Dusty Langwell placed 89th (27:56).
“Everybody did what they were capable of doing and our team finish was the result of that effort,” McNab said. “I usually try to go out conservatively and I went out in 4:50 for the first mile, which is what I normally do. I got to David right at two miles and then we worked together to the fourth mile. Then David pulled ahead of me to the finish.”
Brenna Williamson was the third Aggie to finish on the women’s side following the stellar finish by Munoz and Balfour. Williamson placed 42nd with a time of 22:15 while Kirsten Brown finished 54th in 22:38. Kasey McNorton claimed the No. 5 position for A&M as she clocked 22:47 for 58th place.
The rest of the Aggie crew included Elizabeth Slaughter placing 69th (23:00), Alie Cornell finishing 78th (23:15) and Emilie Fischer at 91st (23:56).
In the close showdown with Texas, the A&M women held a 23-47 edge after the first two runners were across the finish line for both squads. After the No. 3’s finished the Aggies were leading 65-81. But the finish of the No. 4’s for each team turned the tide a bit and created a tie at 119.
McNorton edged the Longhorns’ Lauren Salisbury by less than a second (0.55 of a second) to claim the crucial point for Texas A&M.
“We were really pleased with the effort we had from our young runners on the women’s side as well,” Waters noted. “Kirsten Brown and Kasey McNorton, both freshman, did a fantastic job running No. 4 and No. 5 for us.”
With a 1-2-4 finish from Brent Vaughn (24:23), Kenyon Neuman (24:37) and Stephen Pifer (24:47) the Colorado Buffalos captured another team title with a point total of 34. Oklahoma State scored 48 for runner-up honors while Texas placed third with 58 points.
Iowa State took fourth with a tally of 139 points while Texas A&M’s 166 netted fifth ahead of Missouri’s 195. Last year’s individual champions, Colby Wissel of Kansas, placed fifth in 24:52 and the Jayhawks score 198 to place seventh.
The rest of the team finish included Texas Tech (204), Oklahoma (205), Nebraska (230), Kansas State (318) and Baylor (345).
On the women’s side Colorado made it another sweep of team titles as the Buffalo women totaled 59 points for the victory. Texas Tech, led by individual repeat winner Sally Kipyego (19:23), placed second with 83 points while Nebraska claimed third with 98.
Points became a premium in determining the next six places. Baylor took fourth with 155 points as Oklahoma State settled for fifth with 156. Oklahoma’s 170 total placed sixth, just ahead of Iowa State (175), Texas A&M (176) and Texas (177).
The bottom third of the Big 12 field included Missouri (193), Kansas (254) and Kansas State (257).