Oct. 10, 2007
HOUSTON - The University of Houston regionally ranked No. 11 men's cross country team and regionally ranked No. 15 women's cross country team head to Fayeteville, Ark. for the final regular season meet to be ran Saturday morning in the Chili Pepper Festival. The men's 10K will be starting at 9:45 a.m. while the women's 6K takes a 10:30 a.m. start. Stephen Magness will be back in the lead for the men's team, while Oumama Hallal will take the front spot for the women.
"It's a big meet for us," head coach Ryatn Turner said. "It's a chance for us to see what our regional meet will be like. There are always top-tier programs at this meet and because of the pure size of it, this will be the best simulation you can put together for our regional meet."
The Cougars will take on 16 ranked teams, including nine ranked teams from the South Central region. After not competing at the TAMCC Islander Classic two weeks ago, Magness, Daniel Martinez and Ahmed Harb will once again be the top-end runners for the Cougars.
"Daniel, Ahmed and Steve are doing really well," Turner said. "I know Steve is excited about this meet because it will be his first true test to see where he's actually at. I think this is an opportunity for our top-end guys to try to qualify for nationals. I'm optimistic about this meet."
Oumama Hallal will once again lead the women, but other runners are starting to step up and take a spot in the top-five to create a team worth noticing.
"I think Oumama is doing very well in practice," Turner said, "she's starting to get a little fire. We're also starting to see improvement from Adriane Guinn, and Erica Hannemann is starting to come along as well. Adriane stepped up for us as the No. 3 girl at the (TAMCC) Islander Classic, and Erica has been having really good workouts since that meet. We've started to see the girls really step up"
Turner doesn't expect the University of Arkansas cross country course to bring any extra problems to the runners. The y will be traveling over a mostly flat course, with the only major difference coming from a trip up and over a dam by a lake. What Turner is expecting to give the runners a little trouble is the new length of the course.
"You never know what you're going to get when you run a 10K," Turner said. "It's not only who has the best team, but now it's who has the best team with the toughest kids. It separates the pure distance runners from the speed-component type of runners and in a way it separates the good coaches from the bad coaches."
The Chili Pepper Festival will be an important test for the team and a good way to gauge how Houston will perform in the NCAA South Central Regional.