FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It is time for the Texas Longhorns to make their final push toward the NCAA Championships. The cross country teams will run for a spot at the final meet of the season on Friday at the NCAA South Central Regional in Fayetteville.
The men’s squad will be looking to qualify for its sixth straight NCAA Cross Country Championship, while the women look to return as a team for the first time since 2012.
Automatic spots at the championship meet will go to the top two teams at the nine regional meets across the nation this weekend. Only 13 at-large bids will be available to fill the field of 31 teams for the NCAA meet making finishing first or second a premium.
Following a fourth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships two weeks ago, the men’s team is motivated to make that push on Friday to finish in the top two and advance to the NCAA Championships again.
“At Big 12’s, it was a little bit rocky,” said senior Mark Pinales. “But we have to refocus, reset, get back in the mindset that we are a team that can surpass the expectations that have been put in front of us and get it going again.”
The Texas men enter the meet ranked No. 2 in the South Central Region behind Arkansas. The Razorbacks are also No. 24 in the nation. The women’s squad is seventh in the region.
Cross Country Coach Brad Herbster is using the fourth- and seventh-place finishes for the men and women, respectively at the Big 12 meet to push his team to improve this week at the regional. He knows his team has a target on its back no matter what, and he wants to see his Longhorns run hard and have a better showing than two weeks ago.
“We are a better team than seventh place in the conference,” Herbster said of his women. “I know that, the girls know that, so we just got to step up and do a better job.
“At region, we’ve got to step up. This week is about making sure we are getting out there and used to that faster pace and also just finishing the races. We cannot go into the region meet on the men or the women’s side and expect them to let us into the national meet because we’re Texas. We’ve got to work. We’ve got to learn from some of the mistakes we made at Big 12’s and get ready for the NCAA regional, but to make it through the regional to the national meet is always the goal.”
Action begins at noon on Friday with the women’s 6,000-meter race at Agri Park in Fayetteville. The men will run the 10,000-meter course at 1 p.m.