Cross Coun­try Ex­cited to See Tal­ented Un­der­class­men Com­pete this Fall

Big Spring Herald - - STATE/SPORTS - Spe­cial to the Her­ald

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.

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