Transfers Justin Botello and Johen Deleon led the men’s cross country team to vistory this weekend with a third and fourth place finish. Photo courtesy of Texas State Athletics.

Texas State cross country is looking to be a powerhouse and bring back-to-back championship wins after making history in their 2018 season.

The team’s opening weekend saw a first-place finish for the men’s and fourth for the women’s at their first meet of the season on Friday at the UIW Opener in San Antonio. The men’s cross-country team collected 38 points in the 6k, while the women’s took home 94 points in the 4k.

Junior transfer Justin Botello led the Bobcats with a third-place finish and a time of 18:43.5, while fellow transfer and senior Johen DeLeon crossed the finish line only a tenth of a second behind for fourth place. The times secured the win and also came in at seventh and eighth in Texas State’s men’s 6k all-time list.

The Bobcats’ top five were completed by sophomore Derek Elkins at seventh, junior Cade Michael at tenth and sophomore Travian Holst with a solid 14th place finish.

“That was a good stepping stone for our confidence,” said Botello.

On the women’s side, junior Tina Sierra led the women with a sixth-place finish and a time of 15:39.6. Junior Sydney Cole came in at 16th, freshman Riley McGrath made her college debut at the 17th slot, senior Abby Steinhauser placed 25th and senior Allyson Godfrey finished in 30th to complete the scorers for the Bobcats.

The meet is their first appearance since the women’s historic third-place NCAA South Central Regional finish in 2018. The team beat out regional powerhouses such as A&M, Baylor, and LSU to just miss the national meet and earn their highest NCAA finish in program history.

The team’s 2nd place Sun Belt title was led by frontrunners Leslie Romero and Sydney Cole.

Romero’s awards are almost too numerous to list. The senior transfer won the Sun Belt Cross Country Championship, the first individual women’s title since 1994, with a personal best time and a second-fastest time in Texas State history. This performance earned Romero Sun Belt Women’s Runner of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference honors. Romero went on to take the track and field team by storm, winning the gold in both the Sun Belt Indoor Championships for the 5k and in the Outdoor Championships for the 10,000-meter run.

Cole earned Third Team All-Conference last season, and both Cole and Romero were listed as the top seven runners to watch in the Sun Belt.

Entering the 2019 season, the women’s cross-country team is projected to win the conference.

The women’s team is retaining seven members from their record-breaking season including sophomore Ashley Frye, senior Allyson Godfrey, senior Sarah Godfrey, Sierra and Steinhauser. Freshman Riley McGrath is the only new team member for the women.

The men’s 2018 season ended with a fifth-place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships.

Sophomore Derick Elkins earned Third Team All-Conference after making a personal best and finishing 13th at the Sun Belt Conference Championships.

Going into this season, the men’s cross-country team will have six returners including Elkins, sophomore Chase Bracher, Holst, junior Owen McGlothlin, and Michael. Three new members are joining the men for the 2019 season, including freshman Pedro Osorio Lopez and two Tarleton State transfers, Botello and DeLeon.

The men are projected to finish fifth in conference this season, but they have already defied expectations with their first-place win and are not concerned with their projections.

“We don’t focus on the rankings,” DeLeon said. “We know where we are at as a team and we know where will be when it actually matters.”

The Bobcats will return to racing on Oct. 5 when they head to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete in the annual Chili Pepper Festival hosted by Arkansas State.

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