So far this season, the men’s cross country team has placed first overall in both the Ken Garland Invitational and the Gerald Richey Invitational, showing improvement after last year’s second-place finish in the latter.
The Mean Green lost two of their top finishers from last season in Tim Jones and Andrew Lobos, who finished fourth and twelfth in the Conference USA Championships last year. The team was two spots away from a second-place finish in the South Central Regional Championships, which would have secured them a spot in the NCAA Championships as a team, but instead only Florian Lussy going as an individual.
“They were smaller races, but the goal is always to go in and win,” head coach Kevin Williams said. “[We’ve] had a lot of freshmen this year step up and compete hard.”
The first large invite that the Mean Green will see is the Chili Pepper Invite, which will also play host to the South Central Regional Championships later this semester. No. 21 Arkansas will be one of the teams present at the invite. North Texas will be running without senior Florian Lussy due to an injury, but Williams said he is is expecting junior Jack Beaumont to put up some points when he gets completely healthy.
“He is a local kid that started out as a walk-on for us,” Williams said. “He probably ran close to a thousand miles this summer.”
Junior Matthew Morgan has been a top finisher for North Texas so far this season and he attributes his success to the teammate mentality he has going into each meet.
“On any given day anything can happen everybody has their better days,” Matthew Morgan said. “As long as we are all doing this for each other then I know we can’t go wrong.”
Morgan finished fourth at the Gerald Richey Invitational with a time of 15:08.5 and third at the Ken Garland Invitational. He also runs for the Mean Green indoor and outdoor track programs. His goal is to finish as one of the best runners in Conference USA.
“I would definitely like to place First Team All-Conference,” Morgan said. “I believe in this team.”
Junior Alex Cleveland was mentioned by both Lussy and Beaumont as someone they expected to do well this season. Cleveland’s goal moving forward is to earn All-Region honors from the South Central Regional, but also hopes for an NCAA Championship.
“Nothing is impossible,” Cleveland said. “I am not taking that off the table at all that would be a dream for me.”
Cleveland went on to mention that his mother hasn’t missed one of his cross country or track meets since he joined his middle school team in seventh grade eight years ago.
“She has traveled to every single meet,” said Cleveland. “She always knows what to say after a bad race or a good race.”
Other programs that will appear at the Chili Pepper Invite include Middle Tennessee, Charlotte and Rice, Middle Tennessee and Rice have both notched top finishes and Charlotte has two top-3 finishes. The Chili Pepper Invite will take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Oct. 5.
“Between the four of us it will be a very competitive meet,” Williams said.
Featured Image: Senior Alex Cleveland runs at open practice Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard