STEPHENVILLE – Add another entry to an ever-growing list of accolades for Tarleton cross country star Kevin Baez.
Following his first-place finish at the Ranger College Invitational on Friday, Baez was named the Ticketsmarter Western Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Tuesday.
The honor marks the first time a cross country athlete has received weekly All-Conference recognition in Tarleton’s WAC and Division I era.
Baez cruised to the first individual victory of his collegiate career at Ranger. The junior led a 40-person 8k chase from bell-to-bell, crossing the finish line in 25:49.
His effort engineered a significant milestone for Tarleton as the program approaches the stretch run of the 2021 campaign. The Texans finished first in a five-team field that featured West Texas A&M, UNT Dallas, Southwestern Adventist and the host rangers to pick up their first meet victory as a D1 program. Tarleton posted a team score of 19 points to come within four points of recording a perfect score.
The individual award helps signify Baez’s standing as one of the greatest distance runners to don Purple and White.
He has tallied five consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to Tarleton’s truncated spring 2021 season. For his career, Baez has placed 10th-or-better in seven meets. This fall, the Vanderbilt, Texas native has finished no worse than sixth in Tarleton’s three races thus far.
Baez delivered the best 8k performance Tarleton has witnessed in recent memory on Sept. 25 at the Texas A&M Invitational. He clocked the Texans’ fastest 8k time in more than a decade, crossing the finish line fourth in a 101-person field in 24:01.30.
The effort was a continuation of a historic 2021 for Baez.
In February, he became the first Tarleton athlete to receive All-WAC recognition when he garnered All-Conference second team honors after placing 10th at the WAC Cross Country Championships. Baez’s 8k time of 25:04 was the fastest mark at a conference championship in program history.
His D1 debut was one to remember. Baez took sixth place in 24:43 and notched the first sub-25:00 performance of his career on Jan. 27 at the Incarnate Word Invitational.
Baez was not the only athlete to earn a first-place ribbon on Friday. Freshman Brooke Wendel won the women’s 5k race in 20:04.90 in just her second collegiate meet. From Cuero, Texas, Wendel was Tarleton’s top women’s competitor at the Texas A&M Invitational, as she took 19th place in 18:44.30. With her performance, she clocked Tarleton’s fastest women’s 5k split in three years.
Baez and Tarleton now take aim at the NCAA South Central Region’s elite cross country programs with a return trip to College Station on Saturday for the Arturo Barrios Invitational. Of the 37 teams competing, 34 compete at the D1 level and six are Power Five Conference members. The meet is Tarleton’s final regular season competition before the WAC Championships, which take place on Oct. 30 in Riverside, California.