Islanders Travel to Houston for Rice Invite

CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi cross country team will head to Houston, Texas to compete Friday at the 36th Annual Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational on the campus of Rice University. The women's 4K will start at 6:30 p.m. and the men's 5k will follow at 6:50 p.m. 

"It will be in some ways a Southland Conference preview with Lamar, McNeese and SFA there," head coach Shawn Flanagan said. "It will be a good test to see where we are."   

In the Running: The Islanders will compete against a total of nine schools, including Southland foes Lamar, McNeese State and Stephen F. Austin. Houston Baptist, Houston, Texas Southern, Tulane, Prairie View A&M University (men only) and host Rice round out the competition. 

Live Coverage: Results can be found at http://flashresults.com/flashtexas/2011/ricexcinv11/

RGV Classic Success:  The Islanders swept the opening race of the season on Sept. 2 at the Rio Grande Valley Classic with the men's team taking the top four spots, while the women claimed four-of-five against UT-Pan American. Junior Patrick Kimeli and freshman Angel Banda along with seniors Julia Sambu and Kristine Burciaga clinched the top spots for the Islanders.  

"All in all we are basically healthy, a few aches and pains but training is progressing nicely," Flanagan added. "We are ahead of where we were last year at this time so I am optimistic." 

Leader of the Pack: Last week senior Kristine Burciaga was crowned the Southland Conference Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Week. In her first race of the season at the RGV Classic, hosted by UT Pan-American, Burciaga teamed up with senior Julia Sambu on Friday to take the top spot at the race against 11 other relay teams. After finishing in second place last season, the San Antonio native, along with Sambu, ran the eight-mile race with a time of 44:02.  The two had an impressive run at the event, finishing 11 seconds ahead of a pair of UTPA runners, who finished in second in 44:13. It was Burciaga's first Southland Conference weekly honor. She is the first Islander female to win the award since Anne Ronoh earned the honor in 2008.   

Fresh Faces: Several freshmen made their Islanders debuts at the RGV Classic. On the men's side, Banda had an impressive first start for the Islanders, notching the top spot with Kimeli. Paul Hansel followed suit, placing second and Brandon Lacy crossed the line in third. Phillipp Baar and Christoph Hintz, both from Germany, finished sixth. The women's team saw three freshmen finish in the top five. Vanessa Galindo crossed the line in fourth place and Shelby Polasek and Jasmine Boutte teamed up to claim the fifth spot.  

Islanders in the Rankings: In the latest USTFCCCA South Central region rankings the Islanders women's team maintained their spot at No. 7 regionally and are sitting in the top spot in the Southland Conference. The men's team also kept their 10th place spot in the South Central region rankings. 

Islanders Head Coach Shawn Flanagan enters his 11th season as the head coach of the Islanders cross country team and 31st season as a Division I coach. Flanagan started the cross country program in 2000. He has won three Southland women's titles, four Independent women's titles and three Independent men's titles.  Altogether, Flanagan holds 29 Conference titles as head coach, including the 19 conference titles he won at UTSA. He also sealed three conference titles as an assistant coach at the University of Texas, totaling 32 Conference Championships to his name. 

Last Season: The men finished fifth at the Southland while the women posted a second-place finish. Kimeli advanced to the NCAA championships and finished in the top half. 

Challenging Field: This season the Islanders will face a challenging schedule. After the Rice Invite in Houston, Texas, the Islanders will return home to host the Islander Splash. The Islanders will then head back on the road for their final two regular season events, the University of Texas Rogue Runners Invite and the annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. The final three meets will feature the Islanders at the Southland Conference Championships, the NCAA Regional and the NCAA Nationals. 

Up Next: The Islanders will return home to host the Islander Splash on Fri., Sept. 23 at West Guth Park. The college race will begin at 6 p.m.  

Keep up with the Islanders: For the latest information, follow Islanders Cross Country on Twitter (@IslandersTFXC) and Facebook (Texas A&M Corpus Christi Track & Field/Cross Country).