Wendel, Baez win Ranger College Invite; eight athletes place in the top-five for Tarleton
RANGER – With the Western Athletic Conference Championships looming in three weeks, Tarleton cross country looked the part of a team primed to shake up the meet's projected pecking order on Friday at the Ranger College Cross Country Invitational.
Brooke Wendel and Kevin Baez won their respective 5k and 8k races and both Tarleton's men's and women's teams placed first in a five-team field that featured West Texas A&M, UNT Dallas, Southwestern Adventist and the host Rangers.
In total, eight of the 13 athletes that suited up for Tarleton notched top-five finishes. Two other competitors cracked the top-10 while every athlete that raced placed inside the top-20. The showing marked the first meet victories for either team this fall and first individual wins for Wendel and Baez in their Texan careers.
The men finished with 19 points to come within four points of recording a perfect score. Tarleton's women's team posted a team score of 21 points while each of its six runners finished inside the top-12 of the race.
Baez led the chase from the moment the starter pistol fired. He crossed the finish line in 25:49 to record the first individual victory of his career in Purple and White. The junior has now tallied top-10 finishes in five consecutive meets dating back to Tarleton's truncated spring season and has finished 10th-or-better in seven meets during his time in Stephenville.
A trio freshmen cruised to top-five placements behind Baez. Khristian Vastlik claimed the silver medal in 26:17.20 while Angel Gomez and Austin Flores finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with times of 27:27.90 and 27:38.10. Fellow freshman Mason Alexander took seventh place at 27:58.70 to wrap up the men's score.
Sophomore Riley McClure and junior Gerardo Cipres made their season debuts to round out the men's results. McClure placed 12th in 28:58.70 and Cipres was 18th with a time of 31:39.
On the women's side, it only took two meets for Wendel to garner a gold medal. The freshman followed up a top-20 showing at the Texas A&M Invitational on Sept. 25 with a time of 20:04.90 to nab the individual win.
Sage Lancaster joined Wendel atop the podium. She claimed third place in 20:20.80 to earn the first medal in her Texan career.
Behind Lancaster were Aimee Landers-Wilburn and Allison Hedrick, who placed fourth and fifth with times of 20:41 and 20:53.60. Senior Johnnie Wilkinson rounded out the scoring for the women with an eighth-place showing in 21:33.
Sophomore Jordan Jones capped the afternoon for Tarleton by taking 12th place and setting a 5k personal record in 22:58.10.
Tarleton now turns its attention to a return trip to Watts Cross Country Course College Station for the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Oct. 16. Including Tarleton, the meet features 34 Division I programs – six of whom are Power Five conference members. The Texans then conclude their second season at the Division I level at the WAC Championships on Oct. 30 in Riverside, California.