TSU cross country, outdoor track and field schedules announced

TSU Sports Information
Tarleton's Kevin Baez is pictured during last season's Lone Star Conference Championship. The 2019 graduate of Industrial High School in Vanderbilt returns for his second season with the Texans.
Pat Ponder

Tarleton cross country and track and field officially are weeks away from returning to action, as head coach Pat Ponder revealed the teams' 2021 schedules this week. 

The program starts its inaugural Division I season with two cross country meets, beginning with the Incarnate Word Invitational on Jan. 29 in San Antonio. The Texans then travel to Seattle for the Western Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships, which are slated for Feb. 27.  

The WAC moved fall sports schedules and championship dates to the spring as announced in October. 

Additionally, Ponder announced that Tarleton will not compete in the indoor track and field season.  

The WAC previously said it would not sponsor and indoor track and field championship in 2021. Ponder acknowledged difficulties in scheduling indoor meets with limitations on the number of teams able to compete as host schools continue navigating ongoing health and safety concerns due to COVID-19. 

"With indoor, it's a big strain," he said. "Since we've cancelled the indoor season, that kind of lessens that load for us. That's the one thing we're seeing – who's being invited and who's not being invited now that (the meets) are kind of being limited to the Power Five schools." 

The Texans will instead move directly into the outdoor track and field season. The program is scheduled to appear at seven meets – five of which it has previously competed in – before trekking to Edinburg for the WAC Track and Field Championships. 

"From the outdoor standpoint," Ponder said, "we'll have basically two-and-a-half months to get the athletes ready. So the outdoor season is not going to be that big of an adjustment for us. They're just not competing in the indoor season." 

The team opens its season on March 13-15 with a short trip to Abilene for the WesKittley ACU Invitational. Tarleton competed in the meet from 2017-2019 and was set to participate in 2020 prior to the cancellation of spring sports. Tarleton closes out the month with a visit to Austin for the Texas Relays from March 24-27. 

April will be a busy stretch for the Texans, who have four meets on the docket within a 19-day window. The month is highlighted by the Joe Gillespie Invitational, which is set to take place on Apr. 22 at Memorial Stadium and Oscar Frazier Track. The meet will be closed to the public. 

Prior to its home meet, Tarleton will compete at the UT Arlington Invitational (Apr. 3), Incarnate Word Invitational (Apr. 8-9) and Michael Johnson Invitational (Apr. 16-17) at Baylor. 

The Texans then make their first-ever appearance at Texas A&M's Alumni Muster on May 1 and will have two weeks to prepare for the conference championships. The meet runs from May 13-15 and is hosted by UTRGV. 

Tarleton is eligible to compete for WAC cross country and track and field championships for all four years of the athletic department's NCAA-mandated transitional period. 

"It gives them a prize to shoot for," Ponder said of the championship meets. "All that training and nothing to show for it is hard for any sport, or any athlete or coach. At least we're getting the benefits of being able to compete in a conference championship, and I know they're looking forward to it.  

"Some of these teams we've competed against. We kind of know what the competition is going to be like. There's going to be some events where we're going to find out about what our needs are. That's going to be the benefit of competing in a conference championship."