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Texas Lutheran hosts SCAC Cross Country Championships on Saturday

Texas Lutheran hosts SCAC Cross Country Championships on Saturday

Live Video (webcast begins 8:50 a.m.) • Course Map

SEGUIN, Texas -- Texas Lutheran University will serve as host Saturday of the 53rd running of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Women's and Men's Cross Country Championships.

The action starts at 9 a.m. with the men's race. The championship day concludes with the women's race at 10 a.m.

The starting line is located behind TLU's Katt-Isbel Baseball Field. The finish line is located behind TLU's Ed Kruse Stadium - Morck Softball Field.

After the start behind the baseball field, the course takes the runners to the Krost Fitness Trail, which surrounds Bulldog Stadium, the TLU Varsity Tennis Courts and the George Kieffer Football Practice Field.

The women's 6K course will consist of three loops of the course while the men's 8K course will consist of four loops.

TLU looks to build upon third-place team finishes - for the Bulldog women and men - at the 2016 championships.

A free video webcast will be available for both races on Saturday. The video webcast can be found at: TLU will have additional video coverage via Facebook Live from the TLU Bulldogs Facebook page.

"We are excited to host the SCAC Championships on our campus," said Darlene Holland, TLU's head coach for women's and men's cross country. "The venue should provide a number of opportunities to view the race, and we are excited that the loop-course allows for the meet to be live-streamed."

The Bulldog men, now in their fourth season of existence, look to build upon their third-place finish from 2016.

Holland is particularly excited that the six remaining "founding members" of the men's cross country team will finish their careers at home.

"To have them finish off their senior year running the championships at home is very special," said Holland. "They have been a great group of guys and have set a strong foundation for the future of the program."

The men look to build upon a third-place finish in 2016 and have seen steady improvement over the course of the season. The Bulldogs posted a victory at the Southwest Texas Junior College Invitational in Uvalde, Texas and took home second-place divisional finishes on three occasions.

The top spot on the men's side has been a revolving door in 2017 as three different athletes have led the Bulldogs. Sophomore transfer Caleb Calderon (Austin/Akins/St. Andrews) has taken first for the Bulldogs on four occasions, while senior Blake Westbrook (Victoria/Victoria West) has led the Bulldogs twice.

Additionally, senior Rudolph Calderon (Pleasanton/Pleasanton) led the Bulldogs at the UIW Invite, as his 8K time of 27 minutes, 57 seconds saw move into third on the TLU all-time list.

The Bulldog pack also comes with its fair share of parity, as the top-five athletes have finished in a different order at every meet this season. Senior Donald Manuszewski (Cibolo/Steele) has taken second for the Bulldogs on two occasions, and freshman Francisco Olvera (Boling/Boling) has occupied the third spot on two occasions.

Freshman Hector Hornedo (San Antonio/Antonian) is peaking at the right time as he made his first appearance in the TLU top-five at the University of South Florida Invitational. Hornedo was the fourth Bulldog across the line in Florida.

Defending champion Colorado College and last year's runner-up, Trinity University, have occupied the top-two spots at the meet every year since 2011.

Trinity is currently ranked fifth in the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Region rankings.

The Bulldogs will also face stiff competition from Southwestern University, who only finished three points behind the Bulldogs in the 2016 SCAC Championships.

The TLU Women also have seen great success as a team in 2016. In addition to a perfect score victory at the SWTJC Invite, the women also took home first among NCAA Division-III teams at the Hardin Simmons Invite and took home second-place divisional finishes on two occasions.

On the women's side, sophomore Ashley Rynard (Temple/Temple) has led the Bulldogs all season, boasting four top-five finishes and one victory on the season. Her second-place performance in a 6K time of 23 minutes, 48 seconds at the Our Lady of the Lake Invitational put her into second place on the Bulldogs' all-time 6K list.

After missing the UIW Invitational due to injury, Rynard returned to lead the Bulldogs at the South Florida Invitational in a field that primarily consisted of NCAA Division I athletes.

Freshman Felicia Ortiz (Skidmore/Skidmore-Tynan) has consistently been the second Bulldog finisher and has collected three top-ten finishes on the season. Ortiz led the Bulldogs in Rynard's absence at the UIW Invitational.

The Bulldogs also have seen consistent contributions from senior Breauna Gabriel (New Braunfels/Canyon), freshman Kaitlyn Rodriguez (Bandera/Bandera), junior Kylee Garcia (Wichita Falls/Rider), and sophomore Ciara Rodriguez (Uvalde/Uvalde). This quartet of Bulldogs has rotated positions all season and has often utilized a pack-racing strategy over the first half of races.

The Bulldogs will face stiff competition Saturday from 10th-ranked Trinity and three-time defending champion Colorado College.

Trinity occupies the No. 1 ranking in the South/Southeast Region while Colorado College is ranked fifth in the ever-competitive West Region. The Bulldogs also have to contend with the University of Dallas, who finished in a tie with the Bulldogs at the 2016 SCAC Championships but finished fourth (behind TLU) due to a tiebreaker.

"Both genders look strong going into the championships," said Holland. "We are training well and practices have looked great. The athletes are ready to get in their respective races and run together to challenge as many competitors as they can."

"We hope to finish in at least the top three as a team for both genders and look to place a runner on the SCAC All-Conference Team (top 14 individuals) for the first time."

(Story by Blake Westbrook, TLU Sports Information intern)