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Oklahoma State cross-country set to make statement at NCAA Championships

Sinclair mid race

Sinclaire Johnson finished first in the 2000-meter race in the Hurricane Invitational.

The long hours of training, the hot summer runs and the seemingly endless days of grinding are reaching a pinnacle.

Oklahoma State cross-country will finish its season Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin, at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

This will mark the 16th consecutive year the Cowboys compete in the NCAA Championships and the seventh appearance in the past nine years for the Cowgirls.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls will look to redeem themselves after a poor performance in last year’s final race. The women’s team finished 30th and the men 29th with 31 teams in each competition.

The women run first in the 6-kilometer race at 10:45 a.m. The men’s 10K is at 11:45 a.m. The races will take place on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course. OSU comes in with prior experience, having raced on this course at the Nuttycombe Invitational in September.

There is one alteration.

The men’s race at the Nuttycombe was only an 8K.

Dave Smith, OSU’s coach, said the extra 2 kilometers are a significant change that doesn't help the Cowboys.

“Typically (the extra 2K) has been to our benefit,” Smith said. “This year, due to injuries, illnesses and a little bit of a lack of training, we’re not maybe as good at 10K as we are an 8K.”

Smith said mental toughness is an important part of racing in the 10K and the Cowboys have a group that can handle the extra distance.

Throughout the season, the Cowboys and Cowgirls have had consistent lead runners. Ashenafi Hatte and Isai Rodriguez have led the way for the men during the past months. Sinclaire Johnson has made a significant impact all season long for the women.

OSU will find it critical for these leaders to compete well and will rely on strong finishes from those scoring.

Molly Born, a freshman, is one example of a runner who is vital for OSU. Born finished second for the Cowgirls at the Nuttycombe Invitational and the Arturo Barrios Invitational. She didn’t score in the Big 12 Championships or the Midwest Regional and will look to regain her form in her first NCAA Championship race.

“I want to try my best and try to run as a pack,” Born said.

Luis Martinez, a senior, concludes his collegiate cross-country career this Saturday. Martinez is a veteran runner who has been running for the Cowboys since 2013.

Martinez will race in the NCAA Championships for the third time Saturday. He said he believes if the Cowboys race right, they can finish in the top 10, and he has hopes to finish in the top 40 as an All-American.

“I want to remember that I did my best,” Martinez said. “However good it is, I want to be able to say that I really couldn’t have done better.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com