Three Texans set personal records as cross country makes D-I debut at UIW Invitational
SAN ANTIONIO – Tarleton cross country introduced itself to the Division I ranks with a strong statement, as three athletes notched personal records at the Incarnate Word Invitational on Friday at Live Oak's Main City Park.
Sophomores Kevin Baez and Jenna Brazeal and senior Johnnie Wilkinson all surpassed their top marks in their respective races and were the Texans' highest-placing finishers. Baez was Tarleton's top finisher in both the men's and women's races, placing sixth on the 8k course in 24:43.20. The women ran a 6k race with fellow sophomore Jenna Brazeal finishing 26th in 23:26.17 to lead the way. Senior Johnnie Wilkinson was not far behind Brazeal, as she placed 30th in 23:39.90.
Both Baez and Wilkinson surpassed their previous top times in their respective races by more than a minute. Baez's prior personal best in an 8k was 25:50.90 at the 2019 Bob Gravett Invitational – a race he won – while Wilkinson clocked a time of 24:39.56 at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships in her first season at Tarleton.
The meet marked the first time Brazeal was the highest finisher for the women's team.
The seven-team field contained four other Division I programs; Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UTRGV. San Antonio-based Our Lady of the Lake College and Trinity College also competed.
The men placed fifth after earning a team score of 138 points while the women finished seventh with 199 points.
Three Texans finished within one spot of each other in the men's race. Freshmen Bryer Atkinson (26:47.20) and Riley McClure (26:53) placed 34th and 35th, respectively, while sophomore Dominik Vastlik (26:50.50) was sandwiched between the two. Lucas Kurtz, who also made his Tarleton debut, was the men's fifth-and-final race entrant and finished 46th in 27:40.70.
Imani Williams ran a time of 23:54.60 to place 35th as she begins her senior campaign in Purple and White. The Richmond, Texas native was Tarleton's fastest finisher for the women's team in all five races in 2019. Rounding out the women's race for Tarleton were sophomore Kaleigh Ellis (52nd, 25:50.80) and freshman Magaly Lopez (56th, 26:44.60).
Tarleton now has a month to prepare for the Western Athletic Conference Championships, which are scheduled for Feb. 27 in Seattle, Washington. The Texans are able to compete for and win conference championships in cross country and track and field throughout the athletic department's NCAA-mandated four-year transition process.