COLLEGE STATION – In hosting the inaugural Arturo Barrios Invitational, held Saturday, October 13, on the Dale Watts cross country course, the Aggies welcome an impressive field of 28 teams which includes a pair of nationally-ranked schools in addition to four SEC programs and six teams from the Big 12.
The men’s 8,000m race will begin at 9 a.m. while the women’s 6,000m will follow at 9:45 a.m. Nationally-ranked programs competing in the Barrios Invitational include Oklahoma State, with the men ranked No. 24 and the women ranked No. 29, along with Middle Tennessee State men, who are No. 28.
SEC schools participating in the meet include Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt while other Big 12 programs include Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.
Also competing in the meet are Houston Baptist, Louisiana Lafayette, McNeese State, North Texas, Prairie View (m), Rice (m), Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, SMU (w), Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas Arlington, Texas Southern (m), Texas State, University of Guelph, UT Rio Grande Valley, and UTSA.
“It will be a great competition and it’s great to have a true inter-regional competition on our home course,” stated Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “It’s something we’ve really strived for since we built the course. It’s really cool to finally see that happening with some pretty good teams from around the country.
“We really want to showcase this meet and the course, because we want to host the NCAA national meet. So it helps having some national-level teams from different parts of the county experiencing our course.”
Barrios lettered at Texas A&M in 1984 and 1985 after transferring from Wharton County Junior College, where he won national titles in the 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m in 1983.
A member of the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame, Barrios was a three-time Southwest Conference champion as an Aggie and held school records at 5,000 and 10,000 meters. In 1985 he was the silver medalist in the NCAA Championships at 10,000m.
“Naming the meet after Arturo is very logical,” said McRaven. “He’s the most accomplished distance runner in Texas A&M history and held three world records at one point. He also exemplifies some of the things we preach to kids in our program.
“Here’s a guy who came from Mexico, is now an U.S. citizen, and worked his butt off in becoming an incredibly successful student and athlete. He’s got all the qualities you look for and is a great example. What a role model, here’s a guy who came here and took advantage of an opportunity to make himself even better.”
Barrios represented Mexico in the 1988 Olympic Games, placing fifth in the 10,000m, and set world records at distances of 10,000m and 20,000m along with the one-hour run.
After setting the 10,000m world record of 27:08.23 in 1989, by improving the previous record by nearly six seconds, it stood for four years. It remained the North American record until 2010 and is still the Mexican national record. His world best performances in the 20,000m (56:55.6) and one-hour run (21.101 km) were set on the same day in 1991 and stood until 2007.
Other Mexican national records established by Barrios, each set in 1989, included the 1,500m (3:37.61), 3,000m (7:35.71) and 5,000m (13:07.79).
The Barrios Invitational serves as the final meet for the Aggies prior to postseason competition, with the SEC Championships coming up next on October 26.
“I tell our kids that all of our meets leading up to the postseason are like quizzes,” noted McRaven. “The SEC meet, the South Central region meet and, hopefully, the national meet are the tests. So this is our last quiz of the season to see where we’re at. Our goal is the SEC meet and beyond that, so now we’ll see how we compete in this meet and who will make the SEC team.”