HOUSTON – Sam Houston State cross country combined to produce five top-25 finishes as the men secured third and the women took fifth while opening the season at the 42nd Annual Norry Hersey Invitational on the campus of Rice University.

Jordan Leon finished less than four seconds off the top spot, taking runner-up on the men’s side with a mark of 19:53.52 in the 6,250-meter run. The result helped propel the Bearkats to 72 total points, finishing behind only Rice and Houston among the eight-team field.

Alex Hernandez came in 14th at 20:13.19 while freshman teammate David Zavala produced a strong result in his first collegiate meet, collecting 17 total points with a 20th-place result (20:31.65).

On the women’s side, Hannah Tarrant began her junior campaign on a strong note. The Houston native brought home an 11th-place result behind a time of 14:34.64. Teammate Hanna Sanchez, who ran unattached, took 25th with a mark of 15:04.88.

The Bearkats return to action two weeks from Saturday at the Texas A&M Invitational. The meet will be the first of two straight in College Station to close out the regular season. For the latest on the cross country program, follow @BearkatsTFXC on Twitter or visit GoBearkats.com.

Head coach Jesse Parker on the women’s performance…
“Individually, I was very pleased with Hannah Tarrant competed. She executed her race plan very well and was rewarded with a good individual finish. Other than that, we have a lot of work to do. We have to get fitter and we’ve got to execute better race plans.”

Head coach Jesse Parker on the men’s performance…
“We ran well as a group and I was satisfied with how our first race of the season went. The past two weeks have been a little chaotic but the men have done a good job staying focused. We still have some work to do but I like where we are at the moment.”

Head coach Jesse Parker on Jordan Leon…
“Jordan Leon ran a phenomenal race, though he can still run better if he is smarter in deciding when, and how, to push himself in the race. It was a slow pace and he took the lead just before the first mile. He probably pushed a bit too much in the middle of the race and that may have cost him the victory. I expected him to run but I didn’t think it would be that well.”

Head coach Jesse Parker on David Zavala…
“David Zavala also ran a very good race, especially for a freshman in his first collegiate competition. He was a little excited in the beginning and took off a little too quick but he showed good maturity and instincts in correcting it mid-race, so it didn’t hurt him too much.”