Cross Country Third In The Region; Taylor Collects C-USA Honor
Men's Team Chasing National Bid
DENTON – North Texas cross country is making headlines this week as senior runner Troy Taylor was named Conference USA Male Athlete of the Week for the second time this season and the team is ranked third in the South Central Regional poll.
Taylor continued his stellar season after earning a fifth-place finish at the Texas A&M Invitational last weekend with a new career best time of 23:41.1. Taylor led his team to a second-place finish in a field of 16 teams, including Missouri (SEC), Texas A&M (SEC), LSU (SEC) and TCU (Big 12).
“Troy did a great job executing our race plan for Saturday,” head coach Stefanie Slekis said. “We worked as a group through 6k, and then Troy started to grind down the pace to reach the leaders. He gave it a go to take the individual win the last 500 meters so I was really pleased with how he raced especially since we are just now starting to add race pace intervals into our training. Up until last week we have been racing off of just strength work.”
Taylor is pushing his teammates to join him this season at the national meet where North Texas is trying to become the first men’s team in school history to make it to nationals. At the Texas A&M meet, the Mean Green had five runners in the top-20 (5th, Taylor, 12th, James Coleman, 17th, Silvester Harrison III, 18th, Bryce McAndrew and 20th, Mike Lowe).
“We're right on track for where we want to be heading into Friday's meet against Texas and then the Pre-National meet in two weeks, where we really want to go up against the No. 1 runners from the teams ranked 17-30 nationally who will be there,” Slekis said. “By the Pre-National meet, Troy will be ready to get out hard and still close really well the last 2k.”
In the third edition of the South Central regional rankings, North Texas sits third after two first place finishes and a second place finish. The Mean Green is currently chasing two ranked opponents in Arkansas (No. 15 nationally) and Texas (No. 31) atop the rankings. After facing the Longhorns this past weekend, North Texas will get two more chances to earn points in the next two meets.
“The focus is on doing what we know we need to do to be prepared to race five guys in the top 15 at regionals in six weeks,” Slekis added. “We can't control what Texas or any other team in our region is doing. I know we've laid out training that can make us a Top-25 National team on the right day. So we have to focus on the fact that we're getting those workouts done and staying healthy so we'll be ready to race our fastest on Oct. 31st and Nov. 13th. If we focus on doing everything right in our training then the gap will naturally close when we line up again in College Station in six weeks.”
In last week’s race, the final numbers show just how close NT and UT are running. North Texas finished second with a team score of 72 (5+12+17+18+20) and Texas claimed the team title with a score of 37 (3+7+8+9+10), so 35 points separated the two teams. This week will be another test for North Texas to see if they can beat Texas on their home course.
“We're obviously going to give it a go to beat Texas on Friday as well as at the Pre-National meet in Louisville in three weeks,” Slekis said. “We purposely laid out our schedule so that we could race Texas multiple times as well as other competitive teams (last year we didn't race them until Pre-Nationals and then Regionals).”
The Mean Green will look to close the gap further when they participate in the UT Invitational Friday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. in Austin.
"Ultimately we want to be a top-five team at Pre-Nationals which would be a big jump from last year, but I think we are capable based off of the excellent six weeks of training we've had since August 15th,” Slekis added. “Friday's race against Texas is another test on tired legs since we went pretty hard again in Monday's workouts, because we need to get the work done now to be capable of our big goals in November.”