A rainy weekend put Trinity’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams on their marks in muddy conditions for the Grass Routes Fun Festival in Austin, Texas last weekend. Nonetheless, the teams prevailed, and both finished second in the non-Division I standings. Both teams had a couple of runners finish in the top five of the races.
“The conditions weren’t what we expected,” said head coach Derick Lawrence. “We still got in there and competed in what was true cross country — mud, hills, rain. It was a great experience for everyone to get those conditions. We really capitalized and executed beating our main competition.”
On the women’s side, junior Vanessa Moreno led the Tigers in second place in the 5K. Junior Maddie Murphy finished 11 seconds behind for the fourth place finish. Following were sophomore Jessica Pagano, junior Jackie Newell and junior Jessie Dean.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our women’s team,” Moreno said. “It was quite the experience. Everyone went with a positive attitude regardless if we were the small DIII school. As a team we beat schools like San Angelo State and Tartleton State.”
The team scored a total of 42 points, the top five all finishing in under 21 minutes.
“We’re getting some women who are moving up well,” Lawrence said. “They closed the gap with the 1-5 runners, but we still have room to improve. We need to get that closer, and I think we’re very capable of doing that.”
For the men, senior Robert Edmonds and senior Sal Perdomo were the first two to finish for the Tigers in the 7.5K. The duo was separated by nine seconds, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Senior Francisco Escobedo finished in 11th place, while first-year Taylor Piske and junior Gerardo Hernandez followed.
“Our runners are just mentally tough,” Edmonds said. “A lot of runners now have this mentality that you have to get a certain time in the race, and our mentality is just that we’re going to go beat people, and we have a tough mentality. It’s comforting to know that on the worst conditions possible we can still perform well.”
The men racked up 51 points, defeating Division III regional rival University of Texas at Tyler.
“Our game plan was to be a little bit conservative in the race with the mud,” Lawrence said. “The big thing was that everybody did with the three loops was move up really well. We want to close the gap little by little and that’s the goal for next meet as well.”
Despite the unfavorable elements, the Tigers brought the right attitudes for the race, willing to challenge the weather and focusing on competing. To lighten the race, seven-time Tour de France champion and legend Lance Armstrong accompanied the men — and a few Tigers even defeated the heroic cyclist.
“It was loud, exciting, a lot of build up to it,” Edmonds said. “It was a lot of fun, that’s for sure. The conditions added to it because it was almost like survival. Having Lance there just added to the bonus of racing hard. Everyone just wanted to pass Lance.”
The race proved to be extremely beneficial for both teams heading into the championship part of the season. Competing in an adverse environment against top-notch competition prepares the teams for pre-nationals in Indiana this weekend, where the Tigers will see the toughest of their competitors.
“Overall for Austin, our philosophy was getting into a really competitive meet and getting that competition,” Lawrence said. “Once we get to conference and regionals we have already faced those type of schools.”
Trinity has one more weekend of races before the SCAC Championships on Oct. 27. Some of the runners will take off this weekend, Oct. 6, for the Gibson Family Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind. The others will race nearby at the UIW Invitational.