The Oklahoma State cross-country teams want to get back to national prominence.
The Cowboys and Cowgirls are headed to Terra Haute, Indiana, for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The women’s race starts at 11 a.m. and the men’s race is slated to begin at noon on Saturday.
Last year, the Cowboys finished 18th, a disappointment considering they won the Big 12 and the Midwest Regional championships. OSU hasn’t taken home a national championship since 2012 when the Cowboys won for their third time in four years.
The women finished in seventh a year ago. It was the Cowgirls’ second-highest finish in program history.
Last Friday’s performance in the Midwest Regional was crucial for both the Cowboys and Cowgirls.
The Cowgirls barely advanced to the NCAA Championships. They needed a second-place finish in the regional to advance, and they beat Iowa State by a single point to move on. Kaela Edwards charged up the field late in the race to grab sixth in the region.
Josh Thompson led the way with a second-place finish for the Cowboys, who won the event for the sixth-straight season.
“Last week was a confidence-booster for me,” Thompson said. “I’ve had some up and downs this season, and I think last week’s performance has really helped me stay motivated and confident with myself, especially with other guys having injuries.”
Unlike the majority of the season, OSU had one week to get healthy. It usually has two weeks to bounce back from a meet.
OSU coach Dave Smith said his teams won’t do much this week in preparation for the collegiate cross-country finale.
“We focus on resting and recovery this time of year,” Smith said. “Resting, recovering and racing. That’s about it. This week will just be very light. Hopefully we can get our wheels back under us and we’ll be good to go.”
The Cowgirls won’t finish as high as last year’s team because they lost their best runner, Ingeborg Loevnes. Their second-best runner in 2015 was Natalie Baker, who hasn’t performed as well this year. Baker took sixth at the Big 12 Championships last year; this year she finished 50th.
Smith said he would be thrilled with a top-15 finish from the Cowgirls.
The picture isn’t as clear in the men’s division.
Smith said he wants the men to bounce back into the top 10 but said the Cowboys have the chance to be a top-5 team.
Smith said Northern Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Syracuse and Stanford are upper-echelon teams, but he feels the Cowboys aren’t too far behind the top tier.
“They could all be 15th as well,” Smith said. “I think with those top 15 teams you can put them all in a bag, draw an order, shake it up and you’ll get a different order every time.”