Texas A&M's cross country season begins Friday evening at the Baylor Twilight Invitational, held at the Heart of Texas Soccer Complex in Waco, with the women's 4,000-meter race starting at 7 p.m. and a men's 6,000-meter race follows.
Preseason polls this week have the Aggie men ranked 15th in the nation and second in the South Central region while the A&M women were among teams receiving votes in the national poll and were ranked third in the South Central region.
In addition to host Baylor other teams competing include Angelo State, Dallas Baptist, Tarleton State, TCU and SMU women. The Baylor women are ranked fourth in the South Central region with SMU eighth and Texas State 13th while the Baylor men are ranked 13th in the South Central region.
Last season the Aggie men won the team title with 25 points with Baylor in second place with 40. The Bears won the women's title with 17 points with A&M third with 82 points.
"This will be a great opportunity for us to see where some of our athletes stack up early in the season," said Aggie assistant coach Wendel McRaven. "We will not race everybody, but we are racing some people that have a chance to make an impact this year.
"Last year C.J. Brown won this meet and used it as a springboard to a breakout season that included competing at the NCAA championships and he also had some nice success on the track. These early season meets always provide an opportunity for someone to come out of the woodwork and show off the results of a strong summer of training."
A squad of 22 Aggie athletes, 14 women and eight men, will open the season this weekend. Aggie freshman Laura Craig will make her debut with an A&M women's squad that includes Sophie Blake, Julie Blanco, Shawn Dalglish, Grace Fletcher, Johanna Galloway, Caitlin Gilmore, Amanda Jenkins, Margo Lyons, Kate Mohr, Hillary Montgomery, Alex Perouty and Heather Sterling.
The crew of Aggie men in the race includes Micah Dettmer, Jake Hervey, Weston O'Donnell, Jake Roberts, Colin Slattery, James Welin, Dylan Williams and Bobby Zeller.
"On the men's side we are holding out the top six who were on last fall's NCAA team and we will probably open up most of them at Rice in a couple weeks," noted McRaven. "On the women's side it is a real mixed crew with some of last year's top seven running and some people I expect to be in the top seven lining up.
"It's really just a chance for us to get back into the racing routine and see where we stack up early in a low key setting. It's really a rust buster for us."
Other members of the Texas A&M cross country team will compete in a couple of weeks at the Rice Invitational held on September 14th in Houston.