Cross Country Texas A&M Invitational (copy)

Sophomore Wes McPhail finished ninth at the Gans Creek Classic in Columbia, Missouri.

The Texas A&M cross country team traveled to Columbia, Missouri and placed second in the Gans Creek Classic hosted by the University of Missouri Friday evening.

The Gans Creek Classic invitational was the Aggies’ second competition and first road trip of the season. They competed on a new course that was recently built at Gans Creek Recreation Area which will host the 2021 SEC Championships.

The men’s and women’s team entered ranked No. 3 in the South Central Region after both teams claimed first in the Texas A&M Invitational September 13th. The Aggies competed against 11 teams, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Drake, Illinois State, the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, North Florida, Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, Southern Louisiana and Texas Tech. Each race consisted of 10 athletes from each school.

The women’s team competed in the 6,000-meter race. Missouri placed first with a score of 28 while A&M placed second with a score of 42, followed by Kansas City who placed third with a score of 137.

Kelsie Warren (21:19.6) and Ashley Driscoll (21:39.1) remained the front runners for the women’s team by placing second and fifth respectively. They were followed by Julia Black (22:06.1) in 10th, Abbey Santoro (22:20.9) in 14th, Ashton Hutcherson (22:31.5) in 16th, Grace Plain (23:09.5) in 33rd, Megan Hopper (23:16.4) in 36th, and Sarah Pia (23:16.4) in 38th.

“Coach always says go out there and just try to find people especially for those back girls,” Kelsie Warren told 12thman.com. “They’re working hard together every single day. Go out there find your team and really work that second loop because it was two 3Ks, so really work that back half and just try to catch people ahead of you.”

Coach Wendel McRaven said the women performed well against great competitors.

“It’s a mixed bag,” McRaven told 12thman.com. “I think this time of year we’re training hard. I thought the women ran a really good race. They really closed really strongly over the last 3k of the race.”

The men’s team raced in the 8,000-meter and fell three points short to beat first-place Missouri with a score of 55. The Aggies placed second with a score of 57, followed by Drake in third with 64.

Eric Casarez (25:08.6) and Wes McPhail (25:26.4) were the primary contributors to the A&M men’s team by placing third and ninth. They were followed by Gavin Hoffpauir (25:41.2) in 12th, Zephyr Seagraves (25:50.3) in 14th, Johnathon Blaine (26:04.0) in 19th, Jon Bishop (26:18.6) in 22nd, Harrison Tillman (26:29.8) in 26th, Colton Colonna (26:51.9) in 38th, and Joel Potter (27:40.4) in 54th.

“This race, it’s kinda crazy to say, but it was a rust buster for me,” Eric Casarez told 12thman.com. “This is my first race being in an A&M jersey. I actually just transferred from the University of Oklahoma, and I redshirted last year after being injured. This is my first race in 364 days.”

Casarez almost didn’t participate in the race, though McRaven said he is glad he did.

“On the men’s side, Eric ran great,” McRaven told 12thman.com. “To see him starting to fulfill that potential that he started to show his senior year in high school and he transfers here and it was a quick turn around to get things going and he’s fit in really well. We decided to put the uniform on him for this week because he’s been training well and I’m glad we did. If you talked to me a month ago, we were talking about waiting a few more weeks before we raced him, so that was really good.”

McRaven said a focus for the men moving forward will be on how they start their races.

“I think the men went out a little too aggressively and that was a little bit frustrating because we talked about that,” McRaven told 12thman.com. “They’re so amped up and ready to run well, I think that may have cost us winning the race because we closed well over the last 2K, but Missouri on their home course closed even better. That was their plan and they executed It.”

The Aggies will host the next meet the Arturo Barrios Invitational in College Station at Watts Cross Country Course on Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. This will be the final invitational for the Aggies before the SEC Championship.

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