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Head start: Cross country eyeing 'aggressive' approach this season

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Dave Smith - Cross country coach

Coach Dave Smith said these might be the best teams he has ever coached. 

The first meet for the 2021 Oklahoma State cross country season is here.

Both the men and women’s teams are preparing to run in the Cowboy Jamboree on Sept. 18. Teams like NAU, Tulsa, Texas and many others are all making the trip to Stillwater on Saturday to race the Pokes on their home course.

“These could be the two best teams we’ve ever had,” coach Dave Smith said.

Smith said he is excited about the way his athletes are carrying themselves and going about training this offseason. The intense humidity and heat of Stillwater summers has actually worked in favor of the cross-country teams this offseason. It is important to have runners acclimated to running in all sorts of environments, with humidity being one of those.

Despite potentially having one of the best OSU teams seen in a while, the path to victory could prove tricky with strong NCAA competition. However, both squads are prepared to start competing again against talented opponents.

The men’s cross country team looks to defend its title as Big 12 champions this season. Finishing third nationally last year, the Cowboys are still optimistic for a national title.

This past year’s strategy was to run conservative and calculated, but they look forward to trying out a more aggressive approach on the course.

“We’re just risking it all really,” runner Isai Rodriguez said. “We’re all pushing each other every day to get better, no matter what it takes.”

Rodriguez and Ryan Smeeton are at the helm of the men’s team. Rodriguez is known to bring energy, have fun and run fearlessly, while Smeeton is great at keeping things calm, emotionally sound and focused.

“You want Ryan Smeeton to be your quarterback and you want Isai Rodriguez to be your deep-threat receiver,” Smith said.

They both lead by example in different ways, yet their impact is felt throughout the program.

On the women’s side, the Cowgirls finished 24th overall in the 2020 season and fourth in the Big 12 championship. In 2021, the Cowgirls are likewise aiming big this year, and appear to have the talent to make it happen.

“We want to qualify for nationals and have a strong showing at nationals,” Taylor Roe said. “I think we definitely have the crew to do that.”

Roe, a junior runner, is coming off a second place finish in the 6k event during the NCAA Cross Country Championship. Roe will be a catalyst for the Cowgirls going into the first meet of the season.

sports.ed@ocolly.com