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Volume 70, Issue 60, Monday, November 15, 2004

Sports

Cougar men finish No. 4 at NCAA regional meet

By Jason Short
The Daily Cougar

The Cougar cross country teams completed their season Saturday at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships in Waco with a fourth place finish that ended the men's chance for a national championship run this season, despite the hopes of junior Sesar Figueroa, Houston's top runner in the race.

"Last year we were beat up from running that season coming into the race," Figueroa said. "This year we felt like we had a chance."

The first- and second-place teams in each regional race earned a place in the NCAA National Championships. At the end of the race, the men's squad placed fourth with 148 total points, just two places shy of a trip to nationals. Arkansas, ranked No. 4 on NCAAsports.com, took first with 34 points. Texas and Rice trailed with 51 and 65 points for second- and third-place finishes.

"It's good to go out as the number one guy," Figueroa said of the last race of this season. "But four people in the top 30 is what helped us." 

Leading the Cougars, Figueroa placed 19th in the 10k race with a time of 31:03. Junior Tyler Stanfield came in 20th, just five seconds behind with a time of 31:08. With a time of 31:37, Derek Yorek finished 23rd. Senior Cole Dailey finished 30th in 31:30 to place four of the Cougar pack among the top 30.

Figueroa wanted second, but he sees silver in the cloud lining fourth place. 

"We did something we haven't done in a long time by placing in the top five," Figueroa said. Last year the team placed 8th and Figueroa himself placing 58th. He considers this year's fourth place finish a definite improvement and he's looking to next year for more.

"Everybody is coming back except for Cole (Dailey)'s," he said of next year's team. Top runners junior Tyler Stanfield and sophomore Derek Yorek will also be returning alongside Figueroa, who'll be returning for his senior year. For a few more runners and some added talent, however, Figueroa looks at the performance of the team this year to give the Cougars an edge in recruiting. 

Earlier this season, the men's team won the C-USA Championships in a surprise victory. Figueroa believes the "big improvement" this year and the win can make a difference next season.

The Cougar cross country squads will now prepare for next year. Figueroa says regular cross country training doesn't start again until June with UH head coach Theresa Fuqua, but some of the team will not stop running this year. A few, including Figueroa and Stanfield, will spend time during the break running indoor and outdoor track seasons. But, for now, after a season of road trips and 10k races, Figueroa says, "we'll take a week off."

The women's cross country squad placed 12th in the Championships. They were lead by senior Veronica Ramirez, who placed 33rd with a time of 22:00 in the 6k race. Jessica Oakes, also a Houston senior this year, was second among the Cougar women with a 49th place time of 22:25.
 

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