The Oklahoma State cross country teams are one meet away from the Big 12 Championships in November, but the runners aren’t overlooking this weekend’s event.
The No. 1 Cowboys and No. 19 Cowgirls will compete in the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., at 9 a.m. Saturday. Oklahoma State looks to familiarize itself with the course, which will host the NCAA Championships on November 23.
Neither team has competed since sweeping the Cowboy Jamboree on September 28, but the teams didn’t slack in the polls. The Cowboys have maintained their spot atop the U.S. Track and Field Collegiate Cross Country Association poll for eight straight weeks, tying the program’s longest streak in 2011.
Coach Dave Smith said the way the teams approach practice between meets doesn’t differ from how they prepare throughout the year.
“The whole season, we’re preparing for the Big 12 Championships, regionals and nationals,” Smith said. “Nothing really changes. Races are part of a process that is just built into the schedule for preparation. When we don’t have races, we can work a little harder.”
The Cowboys are the unanimous No. 1 team, according to voters in the USTFCCCA poll. Smith said the meet holds different goals for the men and women.
“On the men’s side, we’re trying to give some of our guys who haven’t raced in high-pressure situations a chance to experience that,” Smith said. “It also lets us sort out our lineup and our top seven, eight, nine or 10 athletes. Right now, there are 12 or 13 guys on the roster right now that are fighting for those four spots.”
Smith said that he hopes to see the Cowgirls compete at a higher level against competition the they will see in Indiana on Saturday.
“On the women’s side, we’re running more of a complete lineup,” Smith said. “We want to get an idea of where we stack up against some of the best teams in the country. We want our top athletes to get experience in that high-pressure situation, so that if we make it to nationals it won’t be such a foreign thing.
“I think that’s what it has been recently. We’ve done well and gotten to the national meet, and then struggled. We haven’t been ready for the pressure cooker that the national championship is. So we’re trying to add a few more races that give us that exposure.”