The cross-country team is preparing for their final meet of the 2015 season as they travel to Huntsville to compete in the Southland Conference championship meet.
Sam Houston State is hosting this year’s meet, as all 13 teams will travel there. The women’s team will race first at 9 a.m. immediately followed by the men’s race.
The women’s team is looking to claim ACU’s first conference title since the switch to Div. I.
Junior Alexandria Hackett has yet to finish lower than fourth in any of her races this season and has been named the Southland Conference Athlete of the Week three times this year. Hackett is projected to win the conference meet by a good amount, but teammate Diana Garcia-Munoz may cause an upset as both her and Hackett have been running extremely well this season.
“This is the biggest race they have been in since they came here,” said assistant head coach Ray Walker, “It’s the biggest because they have never been this good. This is our national championship meet, and they are treating it like one.”
The women’s team will be bringing back three conference veterans in sophomore Bella Gutierrez, junior Michaela Hackett and senior Marina Guerrero. Even though the women’s side has dominated this season, it doesn’t make this meet any easier.
Lamar’s women team has been a distance powerhouse in the conference for years and is looking to repeat last year’s top finish. Stephen F. Austin has also had an impressive season, with their women taking second last year. ACU will have to fight for the top spot throughout the entire race.
The men will also have some fighting to do, as they aren’t projected to finish too high. Senior Daniel Block has been ACU’s top runner for the last two years and will try to do that one more time as he competes in his final race of his collegiate season.
Teammate and sophomore Ryan Cleary has had an impressive third season with the ‘Cats. He’s been ACU’s second runner this season and has three top-12 finishes under his name. Junior Sterlen Paul will look to round out the top three on the men’s side at the meet.
Both teams haven’t raced since Oct. 17 when they traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas. These last two weeks have seen some final but tough practices.
“Both teams cut back on their mileage and did a lot of speed endurance work. A few race simulations as well,” Walker said.
With the championship race now just hours away, now all the teams can do is trust in their training.
“If it is God’s Will, it means that we have accomplished what most schools have never done, which is win a D1 conference champions,” Walker said, “It inspires everyone who have been a part of the process.”