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Cross country preview: Off to the races

Photo by Erik Williams #1 | and Erik Williams #1 The Rice Thresher

By Michael Byrnes     8/22/18 12:37am

Men’s Cross Country

This year, Rice’s men’s cross country team will look to build upon last season’s solid showing that saw them finish third at the Conference-USA Championships and seventh at NCAA South Central Regionals. Last year’s results continued their typical run of success, marking the ninth time in the past 13 years that the Owls were among the top three finishers at the conference meet.

The biggest addition to the roster comes in the form of freshman Ace Castillo, a recruit out of Tuluso-Midway High School in Corpus Christi, where he was a two-time regional champion and a two-time runner-up in the state meet. Castillo will join a returning class led by sophomore Hociel Landa, who was the Owls’ top finisher in both conference and regional meets, earning a second team all-conference nod.

Other notable returners include sophomore Alex Topini, senior Clay Musial and redshirt junior Adolfo Carvalho. Musial joined Landa as a second team all-conference recipient last season, and Carvalho and Topini consistently ranked among the Owls’ top runners, with Carvalho finishing second on the team at regionals.

This year, Rice will compete in four meets before the C-USA Championships in late October. Their season begins at home on Sept. 8, with the 43rd annual Norry Hersey Rice Invitational — an event the Owls won last year, pacing the field of nine teams in the 6.25 kilometer race. The team will then head to the Texas A&M University and Houston Baptist University Invitationals in September before wrapping up their final pre-conference meet at Pre-Nationals in Louisville.

Women’s Cross Country

Rice’s women’s cross country team had a similar showing to the men’s team last year. The Owls also finished third at the Conference-USA Championships and placed eleventh at the NCAA South Central Regional meet; this was the fourth straight top-three finish for the team in the conference meet.

But this year, the team’s incoming freshman class brings a new level of depth to the squad. Three freshmen — Ryann Helmers, Ashley Messineo, and Jenna Miles — all broke the 18-minute mark in the 5K as high school seniors, which would place them all in the top 5 on the Owls’ depth chart. In particular, Helmers won the Virginia 5A State Championship meet and finished sixth in the Nike Cross Regional meet with a 17:37 finish in the 5K.

They join top returners junior Khayla Patel and sophomore Lourdes Vivas de Lorenzi to form a formidable lineup for Rice. Last year, both Patel and Vivas de Lorenzi garnered All-Conference honors, with Patel earning a spot on the second team and de Lorenzi on the third team.

Like the men’s team, the women’s cross country team begins the season on Sept. 8 at home at the Norry Hersey Rice Invitational, a meet that they too triumphed in last year. They will then run in the Texas A&M, Roy Griak, and HBU invitationals before the conference meet on Oct. 27.

Both teams’ ultimate goal is to reach the NCAA Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. To do so, they must both qualify through NCAA South Central Regionals. The top two finishers at regionals earn an automatic bid, and the remaining nine teams competing in the championship meet are selected through at-large bids. The women’s squad was the last Rice team to make the NCAA Championships, in 2010.

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