HOUSTON - Entering the Rice Invitational as the top ranked team in the South Central region, the Texas A&M cross country teams claimed a pair of team titles over a dozen teams on a very humid Friday evening. The Aggie men, ranked 14th in the nation, posted a winning score of 37 points while the A&M women, ranked No. 3 in the region, tallied 42 for its victory.
Henry Lelei, a returning cross country All-American, won the men's individual title in 16 minutes, 25 seconds over a course just shy of 6,000-meters. Lamar's Matt Johnsen finished second in 16:48 while Alex Bruce-Little of McNeese State placed third in 16:51. The course held firm after a thunderstorm passed the area earlier in the afternoon.
Isaac Spencer was the next Aggie to finish the course with a clocking of 16:57 for fifth place. Stephen Curry posted a 17:04 for eighth place while MacLean O'Donnell placed 10th in team scoring with a 17:11. The fifth A&M runner was James Hodges in 13th with a 17:12. Each of the A&M runners among the first five charged to the finish, passing a runner either ahead of them or even with them in the final stages of the race.
"I thought Henry looked like he picked up where he left off in the track season," stated Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. "It was a very controlled performance and he was able to run away from the field easily.
"As a team I thought it was a solid performance. The guys wanted to practice getting out a little faster to prepare for meets later in the season. They did a good job of that, but probably paid for it a little bit at the end of the race. All in all it was a solid performance, especially for the guys in their first race this season."
Finishing behind the A&M men were Lamar and Rice, who tied for second place with 85 points each, with Texas A&M Corpus-Christi in fourth (88) and McNeese State fifth (93).
For the second consecutive meet Sophie Blake led the Aggie women with an impressive runner-up finish, covering the nearly 4,000-meter course in 12:53. Lauren Smith of SFA won the individual title in 12:47. Aggies Amanda Jenkins placed fifth in 13:00 while Hillary Montgomery also snared a top 10 finish in eighth place with a time of 13:05.
"Sophie Blake has stepped up to a higher level, she wasn't afraid to be aggressive," noted McRaven. "Overall, the team looked a ton better than they did two weeks ago. We ran on another level than we did at Baylor. It was a good step."
The next pair of A&M finishers included Shawn Dalglish in 12th place at 13:13 while Gabby Salazar claimed the fifth Aggie scoring position as she placed 15th with a 13:19.
Texas A&M women's 42 points placed them well ahead of host Rice, the team runner-up with 114 points. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi placed third with 123 points ahead of SFA (139) and Sam Houston State (167).
Other members of the Aggie men's team included C.J. Brown in 16th (17:15), Jake Roberts in 18th (17:20), Colin Slattery in 21st (17:20), Dylan Williams 9in 24th (17:25), Micah Dettmer in 26th (17:31), Jake Hervey in 34th (17:42), Bobby Zeller in 38th (17:47).
Also running for the A&M women were Grace Fletcher in 23rd (13:33), Heather Sterling in 26th (13:39), Tara Upshaw in 29th (13:42), Caitlin Gilmore in 30th (13:45), Kate Mohr in 32nd (13:46), Johanna Galloway in 45th (13:55), Laura Craig in 46th (13:56), Julie Blanco in 50th (13:59).
Men: 1. Texas A&M 37; 2. tie, Lamar & Rice, 85; 4. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi 88; 5. McNeese State 93; 6. Houston 161; 7. Sam Houston State 201; 8. Trinity 217; 9. Adidas Team Green 287; 10. Prairie View A&M 319; 11. Texas Southern 324; 12. Texas State 3309; 13. Texas A&M-Kingsville 343.
Women: 1. Texas A&M 42; 2. Rice 114; 3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 123; 4. SFA 139; 5. tie, Sam Houston State & Adidas Team Green 167; 7. Trinity 168; 8. McNeese State 170; 9. Lamar 181; 10. Texas State 207; 11. Houston 245; 12. Houston Baptist 292; 13. Texas A&M-Kingsville 344; 14. Prairie View A&M 406.