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Cross country teams storm Ames for regionals

One down, two more to go.

 Coach Dave Smith and the Oklahoma State cross country teams will make the trip to Ames, Iowa, to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Nov. 15.

 Coming off of a Big 12 Championship, the 2013 Big 12 Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year leads the No. 3 Cowboys in pursuit of its 12th Midwest Regional title in the last 17 years.

 Smith was nominated as the conference’s coach of the year for the sixth consecutive season Nov. 7.

 The Cowboys have held the No. 1 ranking in the Midwest Region for 41 consecutive weeks, but senior All-American Shadrack Kipchirchir and the team isn’t taking the meet lightly, especially after tying the Oklahoma Sooners in last year’s outing.

 “The regional meet is like a bridge to nationals,” Kipchirchir said.  “We need to qualify. We have to run hard, but still make sure we have enough in the tank for nationals. It can be tough."

 Even though the Cowboys has been focusing on each meet one at a time, it faces two postseason meets in just a two-week span.  There is a lot of strategy and balancing involved in competing and winning in such a short time frame.

 Smith said having two championship meets in two weeks is a tricky situation.

  “Last year, we really tried to balance it too hard, and it nearly cost us,” Smith said.  “You have to be careful. You need to get the job done, qualify for nationals and do it with as little exertion as possible with the national meet next week.”

 This will be the third meet of the season in which the Cowboys will race all of its top runners.  In doing so, Smith has been able to keep his team healthy and give some of the younger runners the opportunity to compete.

 “It's good for us to run together like we will next week,” Kipchirchir said.  “We know these are the guys we will try to win with.”

 The Cowgirls are ranked No. 3 in the Midwest and second in the Big 12.  Last year, the women placed third overall, earning a bid to the NCAA Championships for the third-straight season.

 Junior Monika Juodeskaite and rising sophomore Kaela Edwards will look to make it a fourth-consecutive birth to nationals.

 Smith said Edwards is crucial to making that trip to the national meet happen.

 “Kaela amazes me,” he said.  “Everything she has done so far blows my mind, especially considering how little she has raced.  She doesn’t see anything that should limit her performance.”

 “She will only continue to get better.”

 For live updates on regional competition, follow @run4okstate on Twitter.

Sports.ed@ocolly.com