Oklahoma State faces a behemoth Saturday, but its challenger is familiar.
The Cowboy Jamboree is slated for 8 a.m. Saturday at the OSU Cross Country Course, and the home-course advantage pays dividends for OSU.
OSU hosted the Big 12 Championships last year, and coach Dave Smith said that was an example of how the crowd helps.
“I think any time you get to run in front of people that are supporting you, you can draw energy from them,” Smith said. “There’s a certain kind of electricity in the air. You feel it attached to you as you’re racing. I think it provides a little extra motivation when the going gets tough to keep fighting and keep pushing.”
Cross-country fans have limited opportunities to see meets in Stillwater. The meet is held annually and is one of the only meets OSU hosts.
The leader of the Cowboys, Josh Thompson, said the advantage helps a lot.
“It’s just like a home football game,” he said. “When you have the whole crowd screaming and cheering, it gets the players amped up and excited. Running is just the same.”
The Cowboy Jamboree is one of the most prestigious non-championship meets. The course it’s held on is one of the toughest.
Smith said it is an honor to host a meet that has a lot of tradition.
“Some of the best runners in the NCAA and around the world have run this race on this weekend,” Smith said. “For our athletes, it’s a real interesting challenge to run a course that has a lot of history. They know what their times mean, and they can go back and look 10, 20, 30 years ago and see how their times compared to some of the great runners that have been here in the past.”
Smith said it’s the hardest course OSU will run all season. None of the competition is ever prepared for it, Cowgirl Anna Boyert said.
“We do the last 3K loop because it’s pretty hilly and in the woods,” Boyert said. “I think when you aren’t familiar with it, you kind of get lost in there.”
Smith will send almost a full squad to the start line Saturday. Thompson will lead the Cowboys. Sylvester Barus will run in the Cowboy Jamboree for the third time after he ran the event twice in junior college. Sophomore Christian Liddell ran an impressive Cowboy Jamboree last year and will be back this year.
Boyert, Natalie Baker and Aurora Dybedokken will lead the Cowgirls. Middle-distance star Savannah Camacho will join them. Molly Sughroue, Jenny Celis and Kaytlyn Larson are other notable runners for the women.
Two of the best runners for OSU, though, won’t race Saturday.
Kaela Edwards and Cerake Geberkidane will not run as they recover from small injuries and long summers, Smith said.
The race plan hasn’t changed for OSU, despite the injuries.
“Like every meet, we want to run hard,” Smith said. “We want to have the best effort we can possibly have on Saturday. We want to run smart, and ultimately, we would like to win the race.
“I think when they hit the last 600 meters and they’re coming up and down the hills and it’s lined with a bunch of people wearing orange screaming and yelling, I think there’s a little boost there.”