SEC Championships offer next challenge for Aggie Cross Country

By  | 

LEXINGTON, Kentucky – Texas A&M cross country competes in the SEC Championships this Friday, November 1, on the Kentucky Horse Park – Steeplechase Loop. The meet will air live at 8 a.m. (CT) on the SEC Network.

The Aggies will have nine men and 12 women racing in the SEC Championships. The A&M men return five athletes from previous SEC cross country races while the women total 10 athletes who have contested a conference race.

Race time is 9 a.m. (ET) for the men’s 8,000 meters, followed by the women’s 6,000 meters at 10 a.m. (ET). Live results will be available online at http://pttiming.com/events/87931608. The link for the live broadcast on SEC Network is http://www.espn.com/watch?id=8d61234c-ffa5-4c05-af8c-0de8a4865821.

Nationally-ranked top 30 teams from the SEC heading into the conference championships include No. 1 Arkansas women, with Mississippi and Tennessee receiving votes, along with No. 11 Mississippi on the men’s side, with Arkansas and Alabama receiving votes.

“On the men’s side, on paper, it looks like Ole Miss is the heavy favorite and then appears fairly wide open after them,” said Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “Alabama and Arkansas have really good teams, then there are a bunch of teams right there in the mix, maybe within a few points of each other.

“On the women’s side, Arkansas is the overwhelming favorite as the No. 1 team in the country. Then you have Ole Miss and Tennessee, followed by Missouri, Georgia and maybe us.”

The Aggie women return Kelsie Warren and Ashley Driscoll, who have been the top two finishers for A&M in the SEC meet for the past two years. Warren has led the Aggies the last two seasons, finishing 10th in 2017 and 31st in 2018. As a freshman in 2016, she placed 45th and was the second finisher among the A&M crew.

Driscoll followed Warren as the second finisher on the team the past two seasons, placing 17th in 2017 and 47th in 2018. She was the sixth finisher for the Aggies as a freshman in 2016, placing 88th overall.

“Both Kelsie and Ashley started coming into their own during track season, scoring in the conference meet indoors in the 5k and 3k, then outdoors in the 10k and coming close in the 5k,” noted McRaven. “They’ve continued that momentum this fall and look like they should be battling in the top 10 at the SEC meet. It’s great to see that progression over the years come to fruition.”

Also racing in her fourth conference meet for A&M is Lauryn Barrientos while Ashton Hutcherson contests her third SEC meet. Olivia Arriaza, who raced in the 2017 meet, returns as well.

A solid sophomore crew, who gained conference experience last year, includes Julia Black, Carrie Fish, Rachel Bernardo, Abbey Santoro and Megan Hopper. Black and Fish were the third and fifth finishers for A&M as they placed 62nd and 66th overall.

In addition to the five Aggie runners who have previously competed in the conference meet, Eric Casarez will experience his first collegiate postseason race. Casarez has led the A&M squad in the last two meets, at Missouri and in the Arturo Barrios Invitational, as he finished third overall in Missouri and sixth on Texas A&M’s course.

“For Eric the key is not getting too excited about his first SEC meet, since this will be his first championship meet overall,” stated McRaven. “He will just need to remain cool and calm, while maintaining what he is capable of doing.

“For the other guys, they just need to continue the momentum they’ve had this season. Jon Bishop is one of those guys, he’s like a snowball rolling downhill, and picks up momentum as he goes along. That’s been the way he does things since he’s been here.”

Bishop, who missed last year’s SEC meet, was the second Aggie finisher in 2017, placing 23rd, and as a freshman in 2016 finished third among the A&M crew and 41st overall. Zephyr Seagraves races in his third conference meet after being the fifth Aggie in 2017 (67th) and the second finisher for A&M in 2018 (33rd).

The 4-5-9 finishers for Texas A&M in last year’s SEC race return with Wes McPhail (39th), Gavin Hoffpauir (45th) and Harrison Tillman (91st).

Racing in the conference championship for the first time for the Aggies are Johnathon Blaine, Colton Colonna, and Joel Potter in the men’s race, along with Laura Fairchild, Sarah Pia, and Grace Plain in the women’s race.

SEC Championships – Recent Texas A&M performances

MEN 2018 - Seventh 2017 - Eighth 2016 - Seventh

Athlete Place (Team) Place (Team) Place (Team)

Jon Bishop dnc 23 (2) 41 (3)

Zephyr Seagraves 33 (2) 67 (5)

Wes McPhail 39 (4)

Gavin Hoffpauir 45 (5)

Harrison Tillman 91 (9)

WOMEN 2018 - Tenth 2017 - Eighth 2016 - Eleventh

Athlete Place (Team) Place (Team) Place (Team)

Kelsie Warren 31 (1) 10 (1) 45 (2)

Ashley Driscoll 47 (2) 17 (2) 88 (6)

Ashton Hutcherson dnc 52 (4) 110 (9)

Julia Black 62 (3)

Carrie Fish 66 (5)

Rachel Bernardo 77 (7)

Lauryn Barrientos 99 (9) 68 (6) 107 (8)

Olivia Arriaza dnc 99 (8)

Abbey Santoro 106 (11)

Megan Hopper 129 (12)