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NCAA Championship qualification on Smith’s, Oklahoma State cross-country athletes’ minds

Abbie (copy)

Abbie Hetherington and her OSU cross-country teammates will compete Friday in Peoria, Illinois.

Crisp air, a dusting of snow on the ground and heated competition will likely set the scene for the Oklahoma State cross-country squads Friday in Peoria, Illinois, at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships.

To progress to the NCAA Cross Country Championship, the teams that finish first and second will qualify automatically. Teams that fail to place in the top two can only progress through earning one of the 13 bids.

OSU will race 34 schools including, most notably on the men’s side, familiar Big 12 foe Iowa State, Tulsa, host Bradley and Iowa. The women’s biggest competition will come from Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Kansas.

The women will start the cold day of racing at 11 a.m. The men compete at noon. The weather Friday morning in Peoria will make this the coldest race of the season so far. Snow is expected the night before, and the temperature at race time will likely fall just above freezing.

Dave Smith, OSU’s coach, said he is not worried about the conditions for the meet.

“It is what it is,” Smith said. “We’ll pretty much ignore the weather and concentrate on things we can control, and at this point all we have left to control is our effort and attitude.”

The Cowboys face an uphill battle with various issues related to staying healthy before racing. Smith said his men’s side is going the wrong direction in terms of health and fitness.

“We are probably less healthy now than we were two weeks ago,” Smith said.

Smith said he described the men’s side as a revolving door of the top seven with runners going in and out of being healthy. Most importantly, he explained, the top three are fit to run.

OSU is approaching the Midwest Regionals with the goal of advancing. Smith said the athletes are racing as if it were a prelim. With the way the Cowboys and Cowgirls have raced so far, he said he is confident that finishing in the top four will be enough.

“All we’re trying to do is survive and advance,” Smith said.

sports.ed@ocolly.com