Baylor cross-country heads to Big 12 championship

By: Lindsey Miner

The Baylor men’s and women’s cross-country teams will take on their conference rivals Saturday at the Big 12 Championships in Austin at the Jimmy Clay Golf Course. The women will begin at 10 a.m. and the men at 11 a.m.

The top team in each division will earn the title of Big 12Champions and the top 15 runners in each race will be given all-conference honors. The men will run an 8,000-meter course and the women will compete in a 6,000-meter run.

“It’s going to be very intense competition,” junior Brad Miles said. “We’re going up against some of the best teams in the nation, but we’re ready to face anything that comes our way in the race.”

Last year, the Oklahoma State men and the Iowa State women were crowned the 2011 Big 12 Cross-country Champions. Each team has had a record of success. The Oklahoma State men have reigned victorious for the past five years, while the Iowa State women have won the past two years.

“I think ideally we can beat K-State and TCU,” senior Blake Niccum said. “After that, we’ll have to run well and they’ll have to run less than their best. It will be some stiff competition.”

In the men’s and women’s conference championship, Baylor finished ninth and tenth, respectively. The men finished with 274 points, while the women totaled 214 points.

After last year’s meet, head coach Todd Harbour said that “the effort was there for us, but it was a very fast day out there on both sides.”

This men’s cross-country team began the season with the Bear Twilight Invitational in Waco, where they earned second-place. At the UTA Season Opener, the Bears once again placed second. At the Stanford Invitational they got 16th out of 29 teams and placed 13th at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark.

“For this weekend, I know what to expect,” Niccum said. “I’ve done it before. It was a little shocking my freshman year, but I’ve been telling the guys not to get overwhelmed.”

The Lady Bears started the season with a first-place victory at the Bear Twilight Invitational. Success continued for the Bears at the UTA Season Opener in Arlington where Baylor tied with SMU for first-place. At the Roy Griak Invitational in Saint Paul, Minn., women’s cross-country tied for eighth-place with James Madison. At the NCAA Pre-Nationals, the women finished in 26th out of 38 teams.

The Bears have not only been successful at their meets, but in the classroom as well. Baylor cross-country leads the Big 12 with 22student-athletes on the Academic All-Big 12 team.

Eight men and 14 women were recognized for their academic achievements. Seven of these men and 12 women were first-team honorees. Four cross-country athletes had a 4.0 grade point average. Blake Niccum, Erin Hegarty, Bree Schrader and Sarah Guhl were among 13 runners in the conference that had a 4.0 GPA.

After this weekend’s meet, Baylor cross-country will have over a week off before heading to Fayetteville, Ark. for the NCAA South Central Regional.