Expectations rise for second SEC season
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 00:09
Texas A&M’s first SEC Championship came in cross country a year ago when Henry Lelei won the 8,000m conference race. While Lelei will forever be remembered in A&M history, the Aggies are now learning to live life without the champion.
“As a team we are really young,” said junior Isaac Spencer of A&M’s 2013 men’s squad. “We lost our best runner, Henry Lelei, last year so this year it’s going to be fun. What I do like is everybody works hard. No one is messing around. I see a lot of people in the weight room and everyone has the same goals. I think a lot of SEC schools are overlooking us. We have a chip on our shoulder so we want to show people what we can do.”
The A&M team was pegged to finish third in the first rankings of the South Central region. While Lelei still trains with the team, Spencer and his teammates are focused on working towards competing as a group, which will boost team points.
“We are still training at a really high level,” Spencer said. “Team-wise we’re going to have to be stronger running as a group because that’s where the points are going to come from. If we start spreading out that’s when we get weak.”
Both the Aggie men and women competed over the weekend at the Baylor Bear Twilight Invite, a meet that has challenged the team in the past.
“Over the past couple years this meet has been a good chance for athletes who have not been in the top seven or on the travel squad previously to prove themselves,” assistant coach Wendel McRaven said. “It’s an opportunity to see the progress people have made over the summer."
While neither Spencer nor senior Amanda Jenkins competed in the event, both noted the meet was a chance to knock the rust off from summer and get back into the familiar routine of running with Spencer saying the team kept it “conservative.”
“We definitely saw some of our girls knocking the rust off and some girls who may have been a little disappointed with their performances last year — they have had great summers and have improved so much,” Jenkins said.
The Aggie women were also picked to finish third in the region setting up high expectations for team that returns four of its top five runners, Jenkins said.
“As a team we have come in third at regionals last year and the year before but we are a little tired of third place,” Jenkins said. “As a team we’re looking to do better than third and make it together to the nationals meet.”
In a region that hosts two of the nations top programs, Texas and Arkansas, the Aggies have their work cut out for them. It’s a task both teams seem up to.
“I think we can come in Top 3 at SECs and at regionals I think we can come in Top 2,” Spencer said. “Obviously Arkansas is the favorite in the SECs and regionals — and we aren’t going to argue that. But I think we are better than what people have been saying. Hopefully we can shock some people. We’re going to be motivated to beat teams and we’re looking at targets at other teams’ backs. It’s really motivating for us.”
Both A&M squads have the Greater Louisville Classic and Wisconsin Adidas Invitational circled on their schedules. Both meets present a chance to pick up valuable at-large points towards a post-season birth.
“As long as we can keep focused and work together as a team, anything can happen,” Jenkins said. “I’ve seen some teams that maybe haven’t had so much talent but they are focused on a goal and focused on getting somewhere. They just come out of nowhere at the end when you least expect it.”
The Aggies will next compete at the Rice Invitational in Houston on Sept. 13 setting up a run towards the SEC Championships that begins Nov. 1.