Oklahoma State cross-country brought home two Big 12 titles in 2015.
The same result in 2016 would be considered a disappointment.
Last season, with coach Dave Smith leading them, the Cowboys won their eighth straight conference title and the Cowgirls ended Iowa State’s four-year reign as champions.
Big 12 titles are expected this season, but OSU has its eyes on the podium at the National Championships.
“We got a chance to win,” Smith said. “I think the good thing about this time of year is that you feel like you’ve got a team that can do it. You can look at it and squint and see yourself winning a championship. Both the men’s and women’s team are looking very good.”
Changes have been plentiful for the men.
Hassan Abdi and Sylvester Barus transferred to OSU during the summer.
Abdi and Barus are decorated junior college runners and figure to be scoring runners for the Cowboys.
“I think we’ve got a group of guys that are returning that have very positive attitudes,” Smith said. “(They) are into this, are running very well as a group and we’ve added some guys that are immediate impact guys.”
Josh Thompson and Cerake Geberkidane return to the team, and they have improved tremendously over the past year, Smith said.
The departures of Vegard Oelstad, Chad Noelle and Craig Nowak are the biggest changes for OSU.
Oelstad is the reigning Big 12 cross-country champion, and Noelle and Nowak finished top-eight.
The team’s confidence is not shaken despite losing three team leaders.
“We have great coaches and a great program,” Thompson said. “They seem to do it year after year. We trust their recruiting. We trust this program. More importantly, we trust everyone on this team.”
For the women, not much has changed at the top, but the team has added depth.
The Cowgirls brought in a couple of transfers who have the potential to score.
Chelsea Jarvis out of Florida State made her way to Stillwater this summer. Jarvis is a five-time All-ACC honoree and has participated in three indoor national championships.
Ariane Ballner also entered the program from Germany. This summer, Ballner earned bronze at the German under-23 Championships in the 1,500 meters.
Improvement could also come from within.
“I’d like to see Savannah Camacho run in cross-country like she has in track,” Smith said. “I think she’s got the talent. When she’s focused and dialed in, she’s very, very good.”
Ingeborg Loevnes is the only key loss for the Cowgirls, but the core returns.
Kaela Edwards is coming off a stellar track season in which she won a national title. Aurora Dybedokken proved her ability when she was runner-up in the outdoor 5,000 meters.
“We are already thinking about being top-four at nationals,” Edwards said. “I think we have the bodies and the talent. Everyone just needs to stay healthy, and I think if we all encourage each other to stay on top of recovery and keep each other encouraged physically and emotionally, I think we can get there.”