Paced by sophomore Raul Villarreal’s fifth place individual finish, the men’s cross country team ran to a fourth place team finish at the Southland Conference Championship Monday in Nacogdoches. The women’s team was ninth, with SHSU senior Karina Mancias placing 13th.Villarreal became the third Bearkat runner to receive all-conference honors for placing in the top 10. Derek Koonts was third in 1999, and Miguel Gonzalez won the meet in 1992.Villarreal placed 13th at last year’s meet as a freshman. “Raul ran very well, improving on his finish from last year,” coach Greg Hinze said. Villarreal’s time of 25 minutes, 34 seconds on the 5-mile course was followed by junior Joe Amburn, 21st; freshman Isai Llanes, 27th; freshman Matt Buehner, 32nd; and sophomore Matt Rodgers, 33rd. Sam Houston scored 118 points while champion Stephen F. Austin had 52 to win the meet. The University of Texas at Arlington won the women’s competition for the second straight year.”I was very pleased with the men’s race they did all they could do,” Hinze said. “The other teams were just better than we were. Joe Amburn, who is really an 800 meter runner, is going to run FAST on the track after a great cross country season for him.”This year’s men’s team finished higher than last year’s team, which placed fifth. In 1999, the men were second. The women’s team was second last year, but lost several runners to eligibility and injuries.”The women have a lot of work to do,” he said. “There were some reasons why we finished as low as we did, but I’m not going to use excuses. We just have to get better it’s that simple.”The men’s team did beat Southwest Texas, despite indications earlier in the season that Southwest Texas would be a top contender. Randy Arias of SWT won the meet Monday with a time of 24:59, but fellow teammates did not place high enough to come out ahead of Sam Houston in team totals.”We hadn’t beaten Southwest Texas all year, but our training is always geared towards the end of the year, whereas some teams start out training a little harder than we do and fade as the year goes on,” Hinze said. “We always get better and I think that showed today.”Hinze said the runners can build on this year’s meet, since most are underclassmen.”Our freshmen, while starting slow when the year started, really came on at the end,” he said. “Our top five were freshmen and sophomores, and if we can keep this group together, healthy, then I think the future is bright for the Bearkats.”Other finishers for the women were junior Kelli Alexander, 37th; sophomore Casey Jones, 56th; sophomore Vanessa Gnatzig, 58th; and freshman Sarah Hershman, 63rd.Mancias’ time on the 3.1-mile course was 19:08. Defending champion Sita Waru of McNeese won the event in 17:20.