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Oklahoma State cross-country to race for Big 12 championship

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Sinclair mid race

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

Oklahoma State cross-country will look to reclaim the conference title Friday in Ames, Iowa, at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships.

The women’s 6K will begin the race for the title at 10 a.m. The men’s 8K follows at 11 a.m. The races will take place on the Iowa State Cross Country Course.

OSU has dominated the Big 12 in years past, specifically on the men’s side. The Cowboys have won nine of the past 10 conference meets. The Cowgirls won their first conference title in 2015.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls narrowly missed out on the title during the past year with the Cowboys placing third and the Cowgirls finishing second. Only four points separated the Cowboys from first place. Iowa State swept the titles, snagging the men’s and women’s championships.

Dave Smith, OSU’s coach, said Iowa State is the favorite again for the men’s side but his team has a shot at winning.

“They (Iowa State) are returning their whole team and added a transfer who was an All-American last year, so they’ve got a really good team,” Smith said. “I told the guys if we run the race 10 times, maybe we win it a couple times. Let’s make that one of those times this time.”

The Cyclones are also the favorite on the women’s side. At the Nuttycombe Invitational, the Iowa State women’s team finished six places ahead of the Cowgirls. Smith again said on the right day, the Cowgirls could come away with a victory. With a front-runner like Sinclaire Johnson and a solid group of women behind her, OSU isn’t out of the question.

Johnson won the Hurricane Invitational at the start of the season and grabbed a second individual victory at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. Johnson said she tries not to put too many expectations on herself but plans to compete to the best of her ability.

“I’m going out there to win,” Johnson said. “That’s my goal this weekend.”

Ashenafi Hatte and Isai Rodriguez will lead the way for the Cowboys. Hatte won the final regular-season meet of the year in College Station, Texas, at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. Rodriguez made his Cowboy cross-country debut at the Arturo Barrios Invitational finishing alongside Hatte.

This is Hatte’s first year running Division I cross-country. Along with winning in College Station, Hatte also placed in the top 15 at the Nuttycombe Invitational. Hatte said it has all been about his work to get to this point.

“I believe in my work, myself, my coaches and teammates,” Hatte said. “My teammates support me a lot.”

Hatte and Rodriguez said the goal for Friday is to race and win as a team to take back the Big 12 title from Iowa State.