Cross Country Excited to See Talented Underclassmen Compete this Fall
UT Permian Basin Cross Country's young roster is ready to reach the next level in 2020. After months of waiting to know if they'll have a season, the Lone Star Conference is allowing the cross country season to compete and eventually run for an LSC Championship after moving most of the fall to the spring because of COVID-19.
The Falcons are ready to step into the spotlight and compete for the conference championship. Top runner Erik Burciaga returns after a sensational freshman season. Burciaga finished 12th in the conference and qualified for the South Central Regional last season. He was a record setter, breaking the school record in the 8k in just his third race of the season and at the regional ran the second fastest 10k in school history.
He's joined by talented freshman Hector Sanchez and Joshua Garcia. Last year at the state championships Sanchez finished 17th while Garcia, from Permian High
School, finished 33rd. The young trio looks to take the Falcons to the next level after being picked to finish 11th in the Lone Star Conference.
“I had Nicholas (Wittkopp) two years ago, and Erik (Burciaga) last year as my top runners, but Hector is out ahead of them already,” said Head Coach Alick Musukuma. “If he stays healthy and doing what he's doing he will certainly do amazing things. Hopefully him and Erik can push each other every day in practice and get the best out of each other.”
The Falcons are a little more seasoned on the women's side, featuring three seniors. This year the women are picked to finish 12th in the LSC. Throughout practice, Musukuma says two local runners have impressed him the most so far.
“Freshman Nayeli Galindo has looked really good in practice so far,” said Musukuma. “Thalia Balderas is back for me and has been working really hard. We just got to get the mental part of it down. They can train as hard as they want, but if they don't believe in themselves they won't be successful.”
Musukuma comes into the fall with a young roster, 17 of the 25 runners are either a freshman or sophomore. While the roster is young, Musukuma knows they have the talent to be successful if they come together as a team.
“The younger runners are hungry and responsive in practice,” said Musukuma. “Adaptation is super important in running. They're adapting to our running philosophies here and if they listen to their teammates they'll adapt more quickly. No matter how good your team is, if they don't work as a team they won't be successful. I emphasize every day at practice to work as a team, so when we get to the meet things are a lot easier. Championships aren't won at the meet, but at practice.”
As for the expectations that the Falcons are going to finish around where they did last season, Musukuma isn't paying much attention.
“The preseason poll doesn't matter to us,” he said. “Look at a few years ago when we finished third after being picked ninth. This team brings energy every day to practice and they want to be there and get better. It just depends on how badly they want it.”
As for the conference, West Texas A&M is the favorite on the men's side while Lubbock Christian and WT tied on the women's side. The Conference Championships are scheduled to take place on October 31 in San Angelo.