Tarleton goes toe-to-toe with South Central region’s elite at Arturo Barrios Invitational

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COLLEGE STATION – A young nucleus of Tarleton cross country talent flashed both its short and long-term potential on Saturday at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. 

Five of the six women who toed the start line for Tarleton – all of whom are underclassmen – notched collegiate 6k personal records on Watts Cross Country Course. Four of the five competitors Tarleton entered in the men’s 8k race posted sub-26:00 times and all-but-one of the athletes are in their first full cross country season. 

The lone men’s upperclassmen was Kevin Baez, the reigning Western Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week. For the eighth time in as many meet, Baez was Tarleton’s top performer. He finished 37th out of 263 runners in 24:26.90 to lead Tarleton to a 21st-place finish in a 37-team field. 

Collectively, Tarleton posted a men’s team score of 577 points and average time of 25:44. 

A duo of freshman registered personal records and cracked Tarleton’s top-three for the first time in their Texan careers. Angel Gomez improved his time from the Texas A&M Invitational on Sept. 25, which also took place on Watts Cross Country Course, by three seconds to finish 111th in 25:28.70. The biggest individual leap of the afternoon, though, belonged to fellow newcomer Austin Flores. He shaved 1:08 of his 8k time to place 122nd with a time of 25:42.70. 

Rounding out the scoring for the men were freshman Mason Alexander and sophomore Riley McClure. Alexander finished three spots behind Flores in 25:45.70 while McClure clocked in at 27:18.90 to finish 183rd.  

On the women’s side, the 6k race signified the first time Tarleton has raced at the championship distance it will see at the WAC Championships, which take place on Oct. 30 in Riverside, California. Tarleton finished 30th as a team with 809 points and an average team split of 23:58 

The Texans’ top four finishers all made their collegiate 6k debuts.  

Freshman Brooke Wendel, fresh off a win at the Ranger College Invitational on Oct. 8, was Tarleton’s fastest finisher. She crossed the finish line in 22:52.80 to place 113th. Freshmen Allison Hedrick and Sage Lancaster then teamed up to place 157th and 172nd, respectively, with times of 23:46.80 and 24:07.80. Hedrick has been one of Tarleton’s top-three finishers in all four races this season while Lancaster was the team’s No. 2 finisher at Ranger. Sophomore Maria Diaz-Fernandez, who specializes in the 800m and 1,500m during the track and field season, was not far behind Lancaster. The Madrid, Spain native placed 181st in 24:29.70 in her first collegiate 6k run. 

Johnnie Wilkinson, Tarleton’s lone senior on either side, placed five spots behind Diaz-Fernandez in 24:34.50 while Aimee Landers-Wilburn, who transferred into Stephenville this fall from Austin College, capped the Texans’ showing with a time of 24:56.70 to finish 193rd. 

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