Texan cross country shines at Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival as women place third with host of personal records broken


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Tarleton cross country came into Friday’s race at the Chile Pepper Festival with fresh legs off a solid week of training and it showed as the women placed a season-high third and men placed 13th. Both sides finished ahead of multiple Western Athletic Conference teams and broke a host of personal records.

On the women’s side, Tarleton finished third ahead of Texas State, Sam Houston, A&M-Commerce, and many others with 187 points in the 5K. Freshman Morgan Lamberson led the way for the Texans coming in sixth with a time of 18:37.3.

“Morgan Lamberson ran a great race,” said Tarleton head coach Chase Rathke. “She led the charge for us and set the tone.”

Kailey Sykora placed 27th with a time of 19:18.8 followed by Vianney Sanchez in 43rd with a time of 19:32.6, Georgina Balderas in 53rd with a time of 19:43.2 and Kaleigh Ellis at 58th with a time of 19:53.2 to round out the top five women finishers for Tarleton.

“Super proud of that crew overall,” said Rathke.  “A lot of ladies stepped up. Everyone ran a PR (personal record) and a few ran lifetime PR’s. We knocked off a few teams in the WAC which was our goal setting out. This performance was just what we needed to build our confidence.”

On the men’s side, Tarleton finished 13th in the 8K. The Texans finished ahead of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, UT Arlington, Oklahoma, Houston, Abilene Christian and Louisiana Lafayette among others. The result showed them how they stack up in the WAC and has the team excited for future races.

“I’m super proud of these guys,” said Rathke.  “It was a shaky start at first, but they worked hard on the back half of the race. It was huge for us to finish ahead of four different WAC teams.”

Angel Contreras led the way for the Texans placing 42nd running 24:45.2. It was the first time this season that the Ut Tyler transfer paced the Texans. Kevin Baez placed 57th (24:58.2), followed by Angel Gomez (25:23.4) in his first race dating back to the ACU Naimadu Classic, the first race of the season. Khristian Vastlik placed 120th with a time of 25:35.6 and freshman Jerryth Buckingham rounded out the top five finishers with a time of 25:55.4 placing 140th.

The Texans will have a weekend off from racing. Their next time out comes on Oct. 15 for the Arturo Barrios Invitational hosted by Texas A&M at the Watts Cross Country Course in College Station.

“The Arturo Barrios Invitational is a big time meet with possibly more competition than what Chile Pepper had. The name of the game now for us is to stay healthy and we can accomplish what we set out for.”

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