Big 12 XC Championships Preview
The Big 12 Championships will be held Saturday morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The men’s 8K race kicks off at 11am ET followed by the women’s 6K race at noon ET.
WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 6K RACE
Women’s Team Storylines
What should we expect from Iowa State?
No. 11 Iowa State is still something of an enigma. Since the early-season news broke that All-American top returner Crystal Nelson would be redshirting the 2015 season, the Cyclones have held their own while perhaps still not running at full capacity. The progression from contributors to leaders undergone by Perez Rotich and Erin Hooker has been a significant boost for the team, while expected low-point scorer Becky Straw has yet to run to her full potential and former All-American Bethanie Brown has yet to run at all.
Oklahoma State’s First Big Test
We know just as little about No. 23 Oklahoma State for a very different reason: this will be the Cowgirls’ first race this season against a team ranked higher in the National Coaches’ Poll. In low-key affairs at the Cowboy Jamboree and Alabama Crimson Classic (low-key in comparison to Pre-Nats, Wisco, etc), OSU looked solid in wins behind top runners Natalie Baker, Ingeborg Loevnes and Kaela Edwards.
They’ll also get a test from a team just outside the national top-30 in Baylor that will be looking for a statement victory. The Bears are led by Maggie Montoya, who was 11th individually at Wisconsin to lead Baylor to a 30th-place finish.
Time for a Turnaround for West Virginia?
The West Virginia finished ninth at NCAAs a year ago with an exceptionally young squad and entered this season No. 10 in the country. Injuries to All-American top returner Jillian Forsey and disappointing performances at big meets this October have pushed the Mountaineers completely out of the poll entering conference championships. If Forsey’s absence continues, WVU will need sophomores Brynn Harshbarger, Maggie Drazba, Millie Paladino and Amy Cashin to step up.
Women’s Individuals to Watch
The Favorites: Perez Rotich & Erin Hooker, Iowa State; Sharon Lokedi, Kansas; Maggie Montoya, Baylor; Ingeborg Loevnes, Oklahoma State
The Challengers: Sandie Raines, Texas; Becky Straw, Iowa State; Kaela Edwards & Natalie Baker, Oklahoma State
The Question Marks: Bethanie Brown, Iowa State; Jillian Forsey, West Virginia
MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 8K RACE
Men’s Team Storylines
Will Oklahoma State Continue Its Recent Run of Dominance?
The short answer: most likely. The No. 6 Cowboys are the lone top-30 team in the field, making them heavy favorites for their eighth consecutive league title. The question shifts, then, from if they win to how they look in winning. As is customary with a Dave Smith-coached team, we haven’t seen OSU run on all cylinders yet this season, and we may not this weekend either. Cerake Geberkidane has looked exceptional this year, with the supporting cast of NCAA 1500 meter champ Chad Noelle, Brian Gohlke, Vegard Olstad and company coming together. Questions still surround the status of Craig Nowak, last year’s top-20 NCAA finisher who underwent a minor surgery earlier this season and hasn’t quite rounded back into peak form.
They’ll get a test from vote-receiving Oklahoma, who impressed a month ago at the Virginia Panorama Farms Invitational with a close runner-up finish behind Virginia but took a step back with a 22nd-place finish at Wisconsin. Iowa State, also formerly ranked, similarly disappointed at Wisco with a 28th-place finish.
Men’s Individuals to Watch
The Contenders: Cerake Geberkidane, Vegard Olstad, Chad Noelle & Brian Gohlke, Oklahoma State; Brandon Doughty & Jacob Burcham, Oklahoma; Jacob Morgan, Kansas
The Question Mark: Craig Nowak, Oklahoma State