PHILADELPHIA -- The regular season has wrapped and the Houston Cougar Men's and Women's Cross Country teams are set to compete in the 2017 American Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships, on Saturday, in Philadelphia.
The Cougar men enter the 2017 Championships as the No. 6 team in the USTFCCCA South Central Regional rankings, behind the strength of a pair of top-10 finishes from senior Brian Barraza. Barraza won the Texas A&M Invitational in 23:51.4 to open his season before returning to finish 10th at the Pre-National race in Louisville, Ky. Each of Barraza's efforts in 2017 earned him American Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week honors.
The Cougar men picked up their first of two individual victories to open the season, when junior G.J. Reyna claimed the title at the Rice Invitational. Reyna entered the chute at 19:49.72 to win the race, while the Houston men took second in the event with 50 points. The Cougars wrapped the regular season at the HBU vs. Houston Dual Meet, where Blake Contreras crossed the line first for the team in third at 15:44.3.
The Houston men will look to improve on an eighth-place finish from the 2016 American Championships where Reyna led the squad in 23rd and the Cougars scored 215 points.
Houston's women's team opened the season with a third-place finish at the Rice Invitational and were led by junior Ebony White who crossed the line in 12th at 14:38.20. A week later, junior Jennifer Dunlap made her season debut with a 24th-place finish to least the Cougars at the Texas A&M Invitational.
Dunlap would pace the Cougars three weeks later at the Pre-National event, where she finished 75th in 22:26.4 to help the Cougars finish 21st overall in the Red Race. Senior Mackenzie Ilari led Houston in the final race of the regular season, taking fourth at the HBU vs. Houston Dual in 13:09.8.
The Cougar women look to build on a ninth place finish (220 points) from the 2016 Championships, where Selena Sierra paced the Cougars by placing 22nd in 21:39.2.
UP NEXT FOR HOUSTON
Houston will head back to College Station, Texas, to compete in the NCAA Cross Country South Central Regional. The event will be held at Watts Cross Country Course, where the Cougars ran in the Texas A&M Invitational earlier this season.
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