Texas A&M - Corpus Christi cross country teams have spent the offseason working to be ready for competition on Friday night at the UTPA Relay Race. The Islanders women are out to defend their conference crown, while the men's team will look to continue its trend upward.
This season the women's cross country team will try and become the first school to win four consecutive conference championships. A&M-Corpus Christi, along with UTSA (1991-93) and Lamar (2004-06) are the only schools to win three straight Southland conference titles.
Returning will be three runners with all-conference honors. BreAnna Briggs was selected last year, while Courtney Johnson and Caitlyn Arambula earned recognition during the 2008 season.
Head Coach Shawn Flanagan has also brought in newcomers with championship experience to blend with his returnees for this year's squad. Joining the team are Julia Sambo and Sarah Kimaiyo, a pair of runners from Rand Lake Junior College.
Last year Sambo finished sixth at the 2009 NJCAA cross country championships, while Kimaiyo placed 15that the meet. Danielle Higgins finished 13th at the 2009 NJCAA championships while at Pima Junior College last season and is also transferring in.
"On paper SFA is very strong and there are some other programs that are also going to be very strong this coming year. However, if we can blend the new with the old on this team I think we will surprise some observers," said Flanagan. "People forget that that in 2007, Lamar was heavily favored to win as was SFA in 2008 and we managed to get the job done. So while it will not be easy or maybe not even likely, we can still get the job done in 2010."
The men's team is looking to build off its fifth-place finish last year at the Southland championships. Returning will be a quartet of veterans in Ari Perez, Patrick Kimeli, Scott Vance and Daniel Barlow.
New faces on the team are freshmen Justin Adame, Justin Steed and Dallas Brown, along with Adrian Marquez from Johnson Community College.
"For the last couple of years Lamar has dominated the men's side, I see a possible changing of the guard this season. If we can get up front and help out of the new fellows, we can be in a position to challenge for all the marbles," said Flanagan.
As the season begins, each team will be trying to blend in its newcomers with returnees to find the right mix which will hopefully lead to success this fall for the Islanders.
The season starts for both teams Friday night in Edinburg at 6:30 pm at the UTPA Relay Race.