RIVERSIDE – Just like that, Tarleton cross country is officially halfway through its NCAA Division I transition.
The Texans toed the start line one final time this fall on Saturday at the Western Athletic Conference Championships, which were hosted by California Baptist on UC Riverside Agricultural Course.
The men placed 11th out of 13 teams in an 8k race with 305 points and an average team time of 26:10 while the women finished 12th on a 6k course behind a team score of 327 points and combined split of 23:54.
California Baptist posted a perfect score of 15 points in the men’s race to earn its second consecutive team championship. Utah Valley claimed the crown on the women’s side, edging CBU with 34 points to the Lancers’ 41.
Tarleton’s women’s team saved its best 6k effort of 2021 for the biggest stage. Three of the seven athletes the Texans entered notched collegiate personal records. Collectively, Tarleton trimmed four seconds off its average 6k time set at its most recent meet – the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Oct. 16. The split was Tarleton’s fastest at the championship distance in both the spring and fall cross country seasons in 2021.
Jenna Brazeal was the owner of the largest individual leap. The junior placed 51st in 22:38.20, shaving 48 seconds off her previous personal best. Brazeal, who owns both Tarleton’s indoor 800m and 1,000m school records, has been the Texans’ highest placing finisher in four of the last five races she has competed in. The performance marked Brazeal’s first sub-23:00 effort.
Freshmen Brooke Wendel and Sage Lancaster each broke 24 minutes, placing 69th and 74th, respectively, with times of 23:41.80 and 23:53.70. Wendel was the Texans’ fastest finisher in its previous three races and capped her debut season in Purple and White with four top-two finishes for Tarleton. Lancaster’s effort continued a steady linear progression. She cut 14 seconds off her 6k time and was among Tarleton’s top-three women’s finishers for the third consecutive outing.
Maria Diaz-Fernandez and Johnnie Wilkinson then went back-to-back, finishing No. 81 and No. 82 overall. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Diaz-Fernandez clocked in at 24:33.90. Wilkinson, Tarleton’s lone senior on either side, capped her cross country career with a time of 24:38.
Tarleton’s third-and-final personal record belonged to Kaleigh Ellis. The junior claimed 85th place in 24:57.20, breaking 25 minutes for the first time collegiately and earning a 33-second PR in the process.
Rounding out the afternoon for the women was freshman Allison Hedrick, who crossed the finish line 89th in 25:14.10.
For the seventh time in as many races, junior Kevin Baez was Tarleton’s top overall performer. Baez took 30th place in 24:52.60 in his third consecutive sub-25:00 8k effort. Behind Baez were a quartet of freshmen in Khristian Vastlik (64th, 26:00.60), Angel Gomez (72nd, 26:20.90), Mason Alexander (77th, 26:36.30) and Austin Flores (85th, 26:56.30). Junior Dominick Vastlik concluded Tarleton’s showing by finishing 89th in 27:10.40.
Tarleton will now break for more than two months. The Texans’ inaugural indoor track and field season is set to begin in January. The program expects to reveal its complete indoor and outdoor track and field schedule in the coming weeks.