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Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 17

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Sophomore Michael Olague brings experience to men's cross country

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff 

The UH men's and women's cross country teams will begin their seasons Sept. 25 at the Southwest Texas meet.

Setting the pace for the men's team is Michael Olague, a 5-10, 139-pound sophomore from Conroe.

Olague was one of the top distance runners in the Houston area as a junior and senior in high school before he accepted a track scholarship to run for the Cougars.

He was a two-time District 15-5A champion and regional runner-up in cross country. Olague finished 19th at the 1998 state high school cross country championships.

He finished third at the state track and field championships in the 3,200 meters in 1997 after winning the 3,200 meter race at the Region II 5A championship.

Olague became a cross country runner almost by accident. A college cross country coach visited his school when he was in the eighth grade and spoke to the students.


Michael Olague

"He said, 'They run six miles a day,'" Olague explained. "I thought, 'Wow, I want to do that.' That year we moved to Conroe, and everything just fell into place."

Sibling rivalry also played a role in his choice to become a cross country runner.

"I have a twin brother," he said. "In the ninth grade I always had a slight edge on him in athletics. When we got to high school, he started lifting weights and working out. He started being better than I was. It was pretty much just to be better than my brother."

Olague finished third at the Conference USA indoor track championship last year in the 5,000 meter run.

The top three finishers advanced to the regional meet, where he finished No. 12, a disappointing finish for him.

Olague has high hopes for the season, but said he realizes the young UH cross country team may suffer from growing pains.

"We are young," Olague said. "We have two freshmen and three sophomores on our traveling team, but I know we're closer this year as a team."

The men's cross country team runs eight kilometers -- the equivalent of five miles -- unlike the two-mile races of high school cross country.

"Last year, we were all out of high school and we were all No. 1 or 2 on our teams," he said. "We got here and we were kind of big-headed. We wanted to do our own thing."

The Cougar men's cross country finished fifth in the conference last season, but the team expects more this year.

"We've quit being individuals and compete more as a team," he said. "We hope to finish in the top three in the conference this season."

The Cougars have their own measuring stick to gauge their success.

"Our coach likes to hit the same meets every year," he said. "So when we run, it gives us an opportunity to see how we've improved from year to year."

Olague, an education major, said he would like to teach when his college days are over.

"I don't care if it's elementary, junior high or high school," he said. "Just wherever I'm needed."

He did express one disappointment with the University -- the same disappointment that plagues practically all the athletes who perform at UH.

"The only thing I don't like is the school spirit," he said. "It could be a lot better."

The Cougar cross country teams are sponsoring the 11th Annual Cougar Classic 5K run Sept. 25. The race starts at 7:45 a.m. on the UH campus.

For those who register before Sunday, the entry fee will be $12. After that date, it will increase to $15.

For more information, call (713) 743-9470.
 

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