COLLEGE STATION – Saturday’s Texas A&M Invitational includes a 12-team field as the Aggies host a second cross country event on their new home course.
Eleven of the teams competing in the Texas A&M Invitational are from the South Central region, where the Aggie women are ranked No. 3 and the A&M men are ranked No. 4. The women’s team is also receiving votes in the national coaches’ top 30 poll.
“This meet will be a nice early season indication of where we are within the region as well as where some of our individuals are in their development for the season,” said Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “It’s always good to get out there and see some good competition.”
The men’s race, covering a distance of 6,000 meters, starts at 8 a.m. while the women’s 4,000m race begins at 8:45 a.m. The event is free to attend with parking available at the Hildebrand Equine Complex, which is located at 3420 F and B Road off the intersection with FM 2818.
“For a lot of our kids this is the first real meet of the season,” noted McRaven. “It gives them a chance to break into the season with some region-level competition. Hopefully that gives us a springboard into national competition the following week when we see some really good national competition in Minnesota.”
The Aggie women return a trio in seniors Hillary Montgomery and Grace Fletcher as well as sophomore Karis Jochen. They each earned All-SEC honors in cross country last fall when Texas A&M placed second as a team in the SEC Championships to record its highest conference finish in program history. Montgomery also advanced to the NCAA Championships for the Aggies as an individual qualifier.
On the men’s side the top returning senior is Isaac Spencer, who qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual and earned All-SEC honors in 2013. Cameron Villarreal, a sophomore, earned All-SEC freshman honors a year ago in cross country.
“We want to see leadership from our top kids,” said McRaven. “They’ve been training really well and we want to see them running together in the race as much as possible. From the newcomers, on both the men’s and women’s side, we look forward to seeing them get their feet wet in competition and see what mentality they have a little bit.”
In addition to the Aggies, seven of the teams competing in the Texas A&M Invitational are ranked among the top 15 in South Central men’s rankings while five schools are among the top 15 in the South Central women’s rankings.
“We have some good competition lining up here Saturday, it will be a better meet than some people realize,” noted McRaven. “The South Central is a region that keeps getting stronger and we have some of the top teams from the region here.”
The field includes a pair of former SWC and Big 12 foes in Baylor and Texas Tech. The Baylor women, also receiving national votes, are ranked No. 4 with the Bear men No. 10 in the South Central region while the Red Raiders are ranked in the Mountain region, where both its men and women are No. 13.
Lamar, who finished second to Texas A&M in a men’s and women’s relay competition during the Aggie Opener in August, enters the meet with its men at No. 3, as well as receiving national votes, while the women are ranked No. 7 in the region.
Other ranked programs in the meet include Central Arkansas (men 15th, women 12th), Houston (men 12th), Stephen F. Austin (men fifth, women 13th), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (men ninth, women 15th), and Texas State (men 13th). The Invitational field will also include Houston Baptist, Sam Houston and UT-Pan American.