Patricia Mathu
Mercury Staff

Collegiate cross-country teams from across Texas compete at UTD for first time

For the first time in team history, the university’s D-III cross-country teams hosted a home meet in Richardson for a collegiate race.

The UTD Cross-Country Invitational, held at the Practice Tee Golf Center near campus on Sept. 14, made program history as the first home meet. The men’s team took second place with 63 points to first-place Austin College’s 56, while the women’s team took third with 74 points to first-place Hardin-Simmons’ 36.

The women’s team had 10 runners finish the race while the men’s team had 13. Their average times were 21:56 and 16:57, respectively. Danielle Kcholi, UTD cross-country coach, said she had always wanted to have a home meet.

“Being in Dallas, we’re so centrally located,” she said. “It seemed like a good idea.” 

The meet drew over 130 students to Richardson from nine universities, including athletes from as far away as University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 2.5 hours south of UTD. There were also three runners who opted to race without a team. 

Junior men’s runner Trent Sakakini finished the five-kilometer course sixth overall with a time of 16:27, moving up from his 11th place finish at Midwestern State on Sept. 5. He said the home meet brought friends and family to the course.

“My parents came, my sister came, my cross-country coach from high school came,” Sakakini said. “It was cool because they’ve wanted to come see a race but they have never been able to because they’re hours away.”

Being so close to campus, Sakakini also said members of the UTD student body came.

“We had the cheer team and I bet a lot of them haven’t been to a cross-country meet before,” Sakakini said. “It was really cool to see the extra support from the student body and other athletics people.”

With upcoming races in Marshall, Abilene and Arkansas, racing close to home was a change of pace, Kcholi said. The last meet for both teams was at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, over two hours away from campus. The men’s team took second at that race while the women’s team placed fourth.

“It was nice to have the opportunity to not travel and just be home while we’re training. Also, it was nice to have some of those conference schools come to us because we’re always traveling to them,” she said.

The course  involved running a loop three times, and its tight layout made it easy for spectators to see runners multiple times, Sakakini said. 

“You can see people five times in any one spot walking 10 feet one way and then 10 feet another way,” Sakakini said. “It pushed me to see all these people watching me. I can’t slow down at the back of a course. I can’t let them down.”

Senior women’s runner Brittany Parga placed 13th overall with a time of 21:55. She said the footing on the course was challenging.

“That is just Dallas soil,” Parga said. “I think it was a legit Dallas course. It is not supposed to be perfectly level or (have) no holes.” 

Kcholi said North Texas has been in a drought, making the soil dry and cracked.

“It can never be perfect. It is not on a track,” she said. “There are going to be some spots in the ground that are rocky.”

Kcholi said she has a site in Frisco with better footing that she wants to move the course to. It was under construction this year, but Kcholi said she is looking forward to using it in the future.

Kcholi said that the men and women’s performance at the meet makes her look forward to November, the championship season. 

“One thing that makes me excited is our goal to get progressively better,” Kcholi said. “Watching everything click is exciting to see what is going to happen in November.”