The Oklahoma State University cross country teams were off to the races Oct. 19th in Terre Haute, Ind., where they ran in the Pre National Invitational.
The No. Cowboys took seventh in a competitive field even though coach David Smith opted not to enter All-Americans Tom Farrell and Shadrack Kipchirchir.
The meet featured 10 of the top 25 teams in the country, highlighted by No. 2 Colorado and No. 4 Oregon.
“I was pleased on the men’s side,” Smith said. “It was our first big high-pressure meet. We beat some top 25 teams without two All-Americans.”
Sophomore Craig Nowak led the Cowboys after finishing 23rd overall in the men’s 8,000 meter race with a time of 23:53.60. His time is the ninth-fastest recorded in OSU history.
“Craig ran with Colorado’s 3rd and 4th runners…that’s big,” Smith said. “He is developing into an All-American level athlete.”
Smith said Nowak has his eyes set on the team title and wants to be an individual All-American as well; goals he said that are realistic.
As a team, the Cowboy’s scoring-five placed in the top 100 out of 359 competitors. Chad Noelle (24:11.48) finished in 48th-place, Joseph Manilafasha (24:21.08) finished in 66th-place, Taylor Monaghan (24:24.63) finished in 72nd-place and Neal Smith (24:32.35) took 91st-place.
The Cowgirls finished 20th as a team in the women’s 6,000 meter race. Once again, junior Monika Juodeskaite (20:28.95 led the way with a 13th place finish.
Smith said Juodeskaite is the hardest working athlete he has, men’s or women’s.
“Monika is unbelievably tough,” Smith said. “The big races don’t stress her out. She always comes to compete and has a lot of confidence in her abilities.”
“I think we took a big step backward this weekend,” he said. “We need to elevate our game and refocus for the Big 12 Championships.”
With most of the work of the season being done, it’s important for the runners to maintain form and stay fresh.
“We want to be ready to race again at the highest level. In the next 10 days, we’ll get that way,” Smith said.
The men fell to No. 3 in the recent polls, but the Cowboys remain atop the rankings in the Midwest region for the 40th consecutive week. The women dropped to No. 3 in the Midwest regional.
The cross country squads will return to action Nov. 2 for the Big 12 Championships in Waco, Texas.