September 28, 2011

Cross Country Set to Compete at Grass Routes Grand Prix

CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi cross country team will travel to Austin, Texas, to compete in the Grass Routes Grand Prix Friday, hosted by the University of Texas. The women's 6k race will begin at 7:30 p.m. and the men's 8k will follow at 8:15 p.m. at Morris Golf Course.  

"I am not so much watching overall standings in this race as much as I am watching the individual dynamics to see if we are getting better as a team," head coach Shawn Flanagan said. 

Live Results: Results will be available here. 

In the Running: The Islanders will compete against a total of eight teams. Both teams will compete against Southland foes Lamar and UT Arlington, along with Texas, Houston, UTPA, Dallas Baptist and Texas Tech. The men will also face Rice, which they finished one spot ahead of at the Rice Invitational. Here's a look at how some of the teams match-up in the South Central regional rankings:

Men:                                                    Women:

2. Texas                                               1. Texas

4. Lamar                                              7. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi

6. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi               11. Houston

7. Rice                                                 12. Lamar

9. Houston                                         

12. UTPA

In the Mountain Region, Texas Tech is currently ranked No. 15 on the men's side and No. 4 on the women's side.                                   

Women's 6k: After taking second place last weekend at the Islander Splash, behind Rice, the Islanders will look to get some help from the upperclassmen. Last weekend, the top five girls rested in preparation for the Grass Routes Grand Prix. This week the Islanders will match up against some familiar competition. The women's squad has faced Lamar and UTPA at least once this season. At the Rice Invitational, the Islanders finished one spot ahead of Lamar, while also finishing one spot ahead of UTPA at the Islander Splash.   

"Our measure will be Lamar's top two runners," Flanagan said. "At Rice we only had Danielle Higgins in front of them, but four others were close.  So we want to put more runners in front of them and that will give us a measure of how much progress we are making."

Seniors Kristine Burciaga, Julia Sambu, Sarah Kimaiyo and Higgins, along with junior BreAnna Briggs are slated to return to the course. Junior Melissa Jones along with sophomore Cecilia Gonzalez and freshmen Vanessa Galindo, Jasmine Boutte and Shelby Polasek will also compete for the women's squad.

Men's 8k: The men's team swept the top spot at the Islander Splash for the second consecutive year, without three of their top five runners. Freshmen Angel Banda led the team with a second-place finish. This week the top runners return to the course and will look to help lead their team past the rest of the field. The Islanders have faced four of the eight teams this season. The team finished one spot behind Lamar at the Rice Invitational, but finished ahead of Rice and Houston. At the Islander Splash the squad placed one spot ahead of UTPA.

"Our goal for the men is to have more than one runner in Lamar's top five when the race is done," Flanagan said. "At Rice, Patrick Kimeli was in front of their No. 1, but Angel Banda, our No. 2 runner, was behind their No. 5.  A measure of if we are making progress will be to have more runners in their top five. That will show if we have improved on what we did at Rice two weeks earlier."

Top runners senior Jeremy Juarez, Jacob Abrego and Kimeli will be back in action. Joining them will be Banda, sophomore Justin Adame and freshmen Paul Hansel, Philipp Barr, Valentinas Rudys, Christoph Hintz and Brandon Lacy.   

Leader of the Pack: This week, Gonzalez was named the SLC Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Week for her performance at the Islander Splash. The sophomore led the Islanders with a second-place finish in the women's 5k race on Friday. She clocked in with a time of 18:31, marking the best finish in her career.  

Stepping Up: Banda received honorable mention this week from the SLC for his second-place finish at the Islander Splash in the 8k. Banda led the men's team to its second consecutive Splash sweep and first win of the season. The squad took four of the top 10 spots in the 8k race with Banda clinching the second-place slot with a time of 26:19.   

Islanders in the Rankings: In the latest USTFCCCA South Central regional rankings the Islanders women's and men's teams maintained their rankings. The women's team kept their No. 7 ranking and remained in the top spot in the Southland. The men's team also kept their No. 6 ranking in the South Central poll after securing their first win of the season. The men currently sit behind No. 4 Lamar and No. 5 UTSA in the Southland and are ahead of Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State. 

Spotlight Runners: The Islanders have been honored by the Southland three out of the four weeks they have competed. Burciaga, Kimeli and Gonzalez have all earned Southland Cross Country Athlete of the Week honors. 

Islanders Head Coach Shawn Flanagan enters his 11th season as the head coach of the Islanders cross country team and 31st season as a Division I coach. Flanagan started the cross country program in 2000. He has won three Southland women's titles, four Independent women's titles and three Independent men's titles.  Altogether, Flanagan holds 29 Conference titles as head coach, including the 19 conference titles he won at UTSA. He also sealed three conference titles as an assistant coach at the University of Texas, totaling 32 Conference Championships to his name. 

Last Season: The men finished fifth at the Southland while the women posted a second-place finish. Kimeli advanced to the NCAA championships and finished in the top half. 

Challenging Field: This season the Islanders will face a challenging schedule. After the Grass Routes Grand Prix, the Islanders will head back on the road for their final regular season event, the annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. The final three meets will feature the Islanders at the Southland Conference Championships, the NCAA Regional and the NCAA Nationals. 

Up Next: The Islanders will travel to Fayetteville, Ark. to compete in the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on Sat., Oct. 15, at 9:30 a.m.  

Keep up with the Islanders: For the latest information, follow Islanders Cross Country on Twitter (@IslandersTFXC) and Facebook (Texas A&M Corpus Christi Track & Field/Cross Country).