MEET PREVIEW: Big 12 Championships

MEET PREVIEW: Big 12 Championships

NEW ORLEANS – Will the Big 12 title on Saturday go to the conference’s perennial powers? Or will there be a changing of the guard this weekend in Lubbock, Texas?

That’s the question looming over both the men’s and women’s races – which will be streamed live on FloTrack PRO and covered on the USTFCCCA National Results Wall. The women’s race goes off Saturday at 10am CT, while the gun goes off for the men’s race at 11am CT.

WOMEN’S RACE

The women’s race could very well result in a first-time conference champ, with No. 12 Baylor entering as the favorite after a breakthrough fifth-place effort at Wisconsin.

Led by the duo of Maggie Montoya and Lindsay Bradley, the Bears were fantastic in Madison – at least one through four. Baylor’s score through four runners was the second-best of any team in the field, including No. 3 NC State, No. 4 Providence and defending national champion No. 7 New Mexico.

Should Baylor replicate its strength 1-4 and/or bring along a fifth runner, the Bears are in strong position to improve on its program-best runner-up finishes from 2003 and 2008. A conference title would be a stark turnaround from last year’s eighth-place finish in this same meet.

Getting that breakthrough title won’t be easy, with No. 15 Iowa State and No. 18 Oklahoma State not far behind in the polls.

Oklahoma State is the defending Big 12 Champion, but the Cowgirls somewhat underperformed in their full debut with a third-place finish at Penn State. After winning their first conference title last year, OSU will look to make it back-to-back.

Iowa State was the crème of the conference prior to Oklahoma State’s 2015 title, reeling off four in a row from 2011 through 2014. The Cyclones were eighth at the Wisconsin Invitational, about 80 points behind the Bears.

Also in the field are three vote-receiving teams in Kansas, Texas and West Virginia.

Kansas and West Virginia both have potential individual contenders who will challenge the top runners from Baylor, Oklahoma State (Kaela Edwards, Aurora Dybedokken, Natalie Baker) and Iowa State (Erin Hooker, Perez Rotich). The Jayhawks will field last year’s 10th-place NCAA finisher Sharon Lokedi, while the Mountaineers are led by the resurgent Jillian Forsey (top-15 at NCAAs two years ago).

MEN’S RACE

For the past eight years, the Big 12 mens championship has been all Oklahoma State, all the time. The Cowboys have dominated the league since the departure of Colorado to the Pac-12, but could that change this year?

At No. 9 in the latest National Coaches’ Poll, the difference between the Pokes and the No. 13 Iowa State Cyclones is very small.

In its only true test of the season, the Cowboys emerged victorious in a hard-fought battle of top-10 teams against Ole Miss at the Penn State National, 47-49. OSU went 2-3 in the individual race with Hassan Abdi and Josh Thompson, and won despite a somewhat off-performance from Sylvester Barus (who won his OSU debut at their home OSU Cowboy Invitational) and the absence of Cerake Geberkidane.

Iowa State was eighth at Wisconsin, led by a pair of top-25 finishers in Kevin Hoyos and Thomas Pollard. That came after a strong runner-up showing behind Portland at the Roy Griak Invitational, with its scoring line-up packing up to finish between 17th and 23rd.

The Cyclones have never finished better than the runners-up, as recently as 2013.

Both teams will also have to contend with vote-reeiving Texas and a former top-30 team looking to regain its mojo in Oklahoma.