As the Odessa College men's and women's 2018 cross country season nears, head coach Rachel Keylon is eager to get the new year rolling.
"I'm very excited," Keylon said. "We've had a very good start to our season. The kids are excited. They got here and have worked hard. The kids are tired but working hard and I'm very excited to what the first meet will bring us."
Both teams open the season Saturday at the Western Texas College Open in Snyder. The men's and women's teams are coming struggled at last year's WJCAC Championships. In spite of the struggles, the Wranglers still qualified three individuals run for the NJCAA National Championships in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Jerni Guerrero is the only returning national qualifier for the Lady Wranglers.
Keylon likes what she sees, especially on the men's side.
"Our men's team is very talented," Keylon said of a squad that will feature nine runners. "Jose Carrasco is going to be very good," Keylon said. "Antonio Herrera is going to be good. Robert Garcia is another great runner. Jarred William is from Colorado and will be a competitive force. We're going to have a good men's team."
Garcia will look to have a big impact this fall after a tough track season this past spring.
"I got the flu going into the season and I had a hard time getting back into shape after that," Garcia said. But Garcia has a good feeling about this year's cross country team.
"We're pretty excited," Garcia said. "Our men's team seems to be pretty good. We have a lot of good runners. Most of us haven't known each for very long but we're already close together."
The women's team will have three girls that are returning as sophomores. Injuries will always be a cause for concern for any team and Odessa College is no different, especially with only six runners for the Lady Wranglers.
"All of the weaknesses fall within injuries," Keylon said. "We literally pound the pavement so there are a lot of injuries there. We work hard with our sports medicine teams to prevent those injuries and treat them once they happen.
"Another weakness is that we don't have a lot of girls so we're hoping that they don't burn out. Our strength is that we're willing to work hard. Our kids show up early and are willing to put in the time and effort to get better."
With practices well underway, Keylon is excited to finally have her teams together training. "It's always great for us to split at summer since we spend so much time together. But it's always great to come back.
"One of the things that I love is hearing what the kids did over the summer and hearing how excited they are and seeing them interact with the other kids and bond. That's what I like. I like to see how the new runners interact with the older runners."
The goal for Keylon is to get more of her runners to the national meet as well as give conference-rival South Plains a run for its money.
"Some of the goals that we've set are to increase our personal records and to take a full team to nationals instead of just individual runners and to compete with South Plains as well as be a competitive force within our conference," Keylon said.
South Plains dominated the men's conference championships last year, winning with a total of 21 points. "South Plains is always going to be good," Keylon said. "But our conference is a tough conference. They send runners to Division I schools all the time. I'm hoping that we can go and compete with those other schools."
Both teams will look to be battle-tested this season with several challenging races including their second meet of the year on Sept. 14 at Texas Tech University.
"We run at several big meets," Keylon said. "Texas Tech is a big meet and offers a good chance to see a lot of good competition. I want to get our runners in a big meet setting so that they don't have to worry about that too much. We also run at South Plains which is a great meet. We go to Hardin Simmons. We have seven meets including regionals, and then there's nationals."
The first meet of the season for both teams will be on Sept. 8 at Western Texas College.
Article by Michael Bauer: Odessa American