Thirteen of TCU's 19 cross country runners are first-year or sophomore students, meaning the young team will be tested when it opens its season Friday in Waco at the Twilight Invitational.
The team is looking to improve from last season’s fourth-place finish in both the men’s and women’s races at the meet hosted by Baylor.
The men welcome seven newcomers this season, but also return a key runner in junior Preston Newsome who finished 10th at the 2012 Twilight Invitational with a time of 19:13.1.
“We went to the meet last year,” Newsome said. “So we’re a little bit more comfortable going into it. However, this year the competition [is] definitely raised.”
The men’s team will square off against five teams who are ranked in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Preseason Top 15 Poll in the South Central Region.
Texas, ranked second in the poll, is the two-time Regional Champion, while No. 3 Texas A&M won the title in 2008. Other ranked teams include Houston (No. 11), North Texas (No.14) and the home-standing Baylor Bears (No. 15).
Newsome said facing high-quality opponents will especially benefit the newcomers down the road.
“It’s good for us to start off the year facing some of that competition we’re going to be seeing later in the year,” Newsome said. “Especially being a young team that we are, I think it will be a good way to immerse some of those freshmen into collegiate cross country and division one cross country.”
The TCU women’s team, ranked eighth in the South Central Region, will also have its hands full, as Texas (No.2), Texas A&M (No. 3), SMU (No.4) and Baylor (No. 6) all received spots in the poll.
The women return six runners from last season’s team that finished fifth at the Big 12 Championships.
Head coach Liz Wort returns for her third season at TCU.
After Friday’s meet, the team’s next race will be on Sept. 13 at the Rice Invitational in Houston.