Aggies seek to defend team titles at Texas A&M Invitational

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COLLEGE STATION -- State-wide cross country talent will be showcased Saturday morning as the Aggies host the Texas A&M Invitational on the Penberthy Intramural Fields.

As the Aggies aim to defend both team titles they claimed last year, the high school division will once again offer a showdown among the best teams in the state.

The Texas A&M Invitational features five of the top six ranked 5A teams in the boy's seeded division along with the top two teams from the 4A ranks. Meanwhile, the women's field sports five of the top 10 5A schools in the seeded race with a pair of top five 4A teams.

"This is a great opportunity for the community to come out and see our distance runners compete at home," Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry said. "We run on a very visible course, one that allows for a majority of the race to be seen. People can come watch to see what cross country is about.

"We're still relatively early in the season, so it's important to think of this meet as the next step towards another meet. Coach Dan Waters is doing a good job of keeping this group healthy right now and that's always a concern at this time of the year with distance runners."

Admission to the Invitational is free along with access to the 12th Man Fan Zone. Following is the schedule of race times:

7:45 a.m. University Men 8,000 m

8:30 a.m. University Women 5,000 m

9:00 a.m. HS Boys (seeded) 5,000 m

9:35 a.m. HS Girls (seeded) 5,000 m

10:05 a.m. HS Boys (5A-4A) 5,000 m

10:40 a.m. HS Girls (5A-4A White) 3,200 m

11:05 a.m. HS Girls (5A-4A Maroon) 3,200 m

11:30 a.m. HS Boys (3A-2A-1A) 5,000 m

12:00 p.m. HS Girls (3A-2A-1A) 3,200 m

12:25 p.m. JV Boys 3,200 m

12:50 p.m. JV Girls 3,200 m

The University women's field will feature five teams ranked among the top eight of the South Central Region while the men's field sports four teams among the top 10 in the region.

The list of women's teams, with regional rankings, include: Texas A&M (3), Lamar (5), Rice (6), Texas (7), TCU (8), Houston (12), UT-Pan American (13), and Sam Houston State (14).

Also competing are Monterrey Tech, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M Commerce, and Texas A&M International.

Regionally ranked teams on the men's side includes: Lamar (3), Texas A&M (4), Sam Houston State (9), Texas-Arlington (10), and UT-Pan American (13).

"We are going to have four or five college teams on each side that are ranked high in our region competing," Henry said. "It gives a good representation of what competition is like for this region."

Top individuals in the men's field include defending champion Festus Kigen of TCU, who recently won the North Texas Invite after placing second at the Baylor Twilight in late August. Lamar, meanwhile, will feature two NCAA qualifiers from last season in Samuel Kosgei and Francis Kasagule.

David Hebert is the top returning finisher for the Aggies from last year's home meet as he placed fourth on the Penberthy course. He is also the top returning runner for A&M from last year's Big 12 and South Central Region meets where he placed 30th and 26th, respectively.

Hebert opened the 2007 season running unattached at the Baylor Twilight, placing third after leading the race for a majority of the 6,000-meter distance. Lamar's Kasagule won the race in 18:00 while TCU's Kigen was runner-up in 18:02 with Hebert clocking 18:06.

"I felt really good and smooth leading the race," noted Hebert of his effort in Waco. "Initially I was going to take the first half of the race easier, but I was really feeling good. Nobody else was taking control of the race, so I decided I could take over halfway through.

"At the end of the race I wanted the win pretty bad, but I also knew that I still had the rest of the season to consider. So I didn't want to kill myself, especially running unattached."

Texas A&M's Meredith Snow is the Invitational's defending champion on the women's side, but she will contest the 2007 version unattached. Snow, who qualified for the NCAA Championship field as a freshman last year, opened the season by leading the Aggies to a runner-up team finish at the Baylor Twilight.

Sarah Balfour, an NCAA qualifier as a freshman in 2006, will headline the Aggie squad. Balfour placed third in the A&M Invitational race last season and opened the 2007 campaign running unattached at the Baylor Twilight, where she finished 13th in 14:18.

Top individuals competing in the women's race includes Marissa Daniels of Rice with Lamar's tandem of Renee Graham and Clerc Koenck. Graham finished third at the 2006 South Central Region meet and earned a berth into the NCAA field. Daniels placed 15th and Koenck was 16th in last year's regional race.

The rest of the Aggie women's squad competing will consist of Leigh Berger, Kirsten Brown, Alie Cornell, Emilie Fischer, Frances Hearn, Kathryn Hearn, Kasey McNorton, Kassie Moore, Christina Munoz, Elizabeth Slaughter and Brenna Williamson.

Competing for the Texas A&M men's team are Brian Duplechain, Dusty Langwell, Brian Lind, Kevin McNab, Andrew Montes, Graham Northcutt, Kevin Ondrasek, Matt Ross, Joe Sauvageau, Ben Schulz and Logan Sherman.

High School Field Stacked

A total of nine high school races will result in 145 teams and 2,000 athletes competing on the Penberthy Intramural fields this weekend.

"This is actually one of the better high school meets in the state of Texas," Henry noted. "We bring a lot of athletes to campus for this competition and it's a good showcase for them this weekend."

A renewed showdown between last year's champion, Southlake Carroll, and runner-up, The Woodlands, will highlight the boy's seeded division.

The Woodlands, currently ranked No. 1 in the state and the South region, went on to claim the State 5A title in 2006 after taking second in last year's Texas A&M Invitational by one point, 95-96, to the Southlake Carroll squad. At the State meet The Woodlands won with a 58-76 margin.

Defending State 5A champion Colby Lowe, an individual winner the past two years at the A&M Invitational, leads No. 2 ranked Southlake Carroll as the Dragons attempt to defend their team title.

The boy's seeded division also includes State and region ranked teams in Cedar Park (4), Kingwood (5), Cinco Ranch (6) and Georgetown (10). In addition the seeded field has Katy Seven Lakes and Big Springs, who are the top two teams in the 4A ranks, along with Lufkin Hudson, ranked No. 3 in 3A.

The top state-ranked 5A teams in the girls seeded division are Cinco Ranch (3), A&M Consolidated (6), Houston Lamar (8), Cy Woods (9) and Southlake Carroll (10). The field also includes Cedar Park Vista Ridge (3) and Katy Seven Lakes (4) from the 4A state rankings.

The Maroon division of the 5A-4A girls' race will include three teams currently among the top 10 in the state 3A rankings: Giddings (5), Lufkin Hudson (8) and Kingwood Park (10).