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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M cross country to open season with all-SEC slate

A+runner+from+Middle+Tennessee+looks+back+to+sophomore+Eric+Casarez+right+behind+him.
Photo by Kaylee Cogbill

A runner from Middle Tennessee looks back to sophomore Eric Casarez right behind him.

Two weeks after its season was originally scheduled to start, Texas A&M cross country will have its first meet this Saturday in Baton Rouge. A&M will face an all-SEC slate of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and host LSU.
The Aggies are ranked No. 5 on the men’s side, according to the SEC Coaches’ Preseason Poll, and the women are predicted to finish No. 10.
For A&M coach Wendel McRaven, Saturday’s meet will give a good first look at his teams who have a new dynamic due to the departure of several major contributors to the team and COVID-19.
“A lot of things look different just because of our whole situation,” McRaven said. “On the men’s side we have an influx of youth on the team and we have some of our leadership returning. On the women’s side we lost our two biggest hitters from the last couple of years in Ashley Driscoll and Kelsie Warren, both of whom were national qualifiers.”
Junior Julia Black said not only has the team had to replace the two departed seniors, they have also had to adjust to new leadership within the team.
“It was definitely a big change, but the girls that we have now have really stepped up instead of it just being a few people leading,” Black said. “The team culture has shifted and so many people on the team can step up and take control and help out the underclassmen.”
One more change the Aggies will be dealing with during their first meet is a reduced number of competitors on the women’s side due to COVID-19 precautions.
“We have a little bit of a wrench thrown in the works,” McRaven said. “We’re going to have a very small women’s team because we’ve got a handful of women who are in quarantine because of exposure which is a big reality of college athletics in this era.”
As for the men’s team, junior Eric Casarez said the all-SEC slate will provide a preview of the conference meet where he will attempt to best his 14th place finish from 2019.
“I know there’s going to be Arkansas and Ole Miss there with guys that I battled against last year at the SEC Championships that got the better of me,” Casarez said “This meet I’m looking to go in there and see where I sit with them because I was pretty disappointed with my finish last year.”
Though the pandemic has altered the team’s practice and competition schedule, Black said the Aggies have spent the offseason preparing with as much dedication as they have in previous years.
“When COVID hit I know it was a really challenging time but instead of our team saying ‘Oh my gosh I don’t know if we’re going to have a season,’ we all just buckled down and practiced and ran as if the season wasn’t affected,” Black said. “Our training altered but our team stayed focused and locked in knowing when the day came to race we would be ready.”
With a reduced schedule, Casarez said he is confident the Aggies are prepared to prove themselves and make the most of this season.
“It’s super important because we only have these limited opportunities,” Casarez said. “You have to make the most out of what you’ve got and I feel like we have prepared and are ready for a shorter season.”

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