Cross Country wins home meet, works towards conference title

Jessalyn Castro

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Gabby Ruiz, Spanish and nursing senior, runs in the Cross Country Carnival Saturday at the former Hawk Ridge Golf Course. Ruiz finished in second place with a personal-best of 22:20. Photo by Lauren Roberts

Gabby Ruiz, Spanish and nursing senior, runs in the Cross Country Carnival Saturday at the former Hawk Ridge Golf Course. Ruiz finished in second place with a personal-best of 22:20. Photo by Lauren Roberts

Spanish senior Emma Ramirez is perfectly aware her collegiate running days are almost over.

“A lot of us are seniors and there’s no second chance,” Ramirez said. “This is it.”

As one of seven seniors on the cross country team, Ramirez wants to make the most of these next few races, which is why the Mustangs’ first-place showing Saturday at the Cross Country Carnival was so important to her.

The Carnival, held at the former Hawk Ridge Golf Course, signified the Mustangs’ last true test before they aim for a Lone Star Conference title Nov. 8 on the same course. A year ago, MSU finished in third place, but the runners said they expect to perform better this time.

“The main goal is to win. And to do that at our home course in front of our home crowd, it’s a pretty special feeling,” head coach Koby Styles said. “We wanted to run hard and get a sense of what it was going to be like for the conference championship.”

Last year the team finished in third place at the Lone Star Conference meet.  The 2011 season was the last time the team won conference.  Being ranked 14th in the nation and fourth in the region this year, Styles said they expect to win when they line up.

“It’s kind of funny because this is almost the exact same team as last year,” Styles said.

Styles said this year the team has clicked and become a much tighter unit with a lot more team bonding and team activities under a veteran-led group.

“Definitely this year everybody gets along a lot better. Last year there were a lot of new people with different types of personalities,” said Spanish and nursing senior Gabby Ruiz.

Ruiz said it worked in the team’s advantage to become a close unit as they are able to understand each other and be there for one another.

“We’re all in the same mindset and we’re all going for the same thing. We all need to be good together,” Ramirez said.

As the runners have their eyes on a big conference win, they continue to work hard in preparation for the championship meet.

“Right now we’ve pretty much done all the high mileage so we’re gonna drop the mileage a little bit and get a little more intense on our hard workouts,” Styles said. “We’re gonna hit the track a little more to work on our speed, that way when it’s the last mile or half a mile of the race, we’re passing and not getting passed.”

Having successful workouts in practice is what will bring the team to reach its goals, and Ramirez said every hard workout they can see the improvement.

“Mentally, we’re where we need to be,” Ruiz said. “Practice is going great, everybody is running super fast. I think we’re where we need to be so if we just keep running how we’ve been running and supporting each other I think we’ll do some great things at conference.”

Everybody’s goals are to win conference, do good at regionals, and do something at nationals, Ruiz said.

“Our goal is to get into the top 10. It’s possible with the talent we have,” she said.

The team will travel to East Central, Styles’ alma mater, next week to represent MSU.  Styles said East Central has always been really supportive in coming here for meets so they are going to repay the favor and go to their home meet.

“We’re gonna treat it more of a workout. This was our last hard effort until conference,” he said.

Styles said to reach their goal of a championship title, runners need to stay healthy and have a mindset of now or never.

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