By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor cross country travels to Lawrence, Kan. to compete in the 2014 Big 12 Cross Country Championship on Saturday. While Baylor freshman are running the line for a few yards, the Bears’ cross country team will be running much longer distance with two Big 12 (men’s and women’s) title on the line.
“It’s easier in these kind of meets to know exactly who your competition is, compared to when you’re running against 300 people,” Harbour said.
“We’ll have about 80. So, it’s going to be a lot more to know exactly where the other runners are at. It’s just a totally different type of race than what they’ve been in the last two times.” The best overall team wins the Big 12 Championship title while the 30 best runners, (15 from the men’s race and 15 from the women’s race) are named to the all-conference team. The Oklahoma State men and the Iowa State women won the conference title in 2013. The OSU men have won six Big 12 Conference Championship titles in-a-row and the ISU women have won three-straight Big 12 titles.
“We’ve got a really strong team,” Harbour said. “We’re the fourth ranked team in our conference right now. Iowa State and West Virginia are both top 10, Oklahoma State is in the 20s. We’re right behind them, so, we’ve got a shot, but we’re going to have to run really, really well.”
The Cyclones have a three-year streak in conference titles. The Bears have placed second three times in the conference championship, but have never won the title. Harbour sees the tournament this weekend as an opportunity to finally claim the Big 12 crown.
“We’ve got to match up, know who their number one, know who their number two is and we’ve got to go get them. We’ve second three times, but we’ve never been able to pull it off. So, here we are in striking distance again.”
One the Baylor’s star runners from the women’s side is senior Rachel Johnson. Johnson, like many of the cross country runners is part of the track team. Johnson had a very successful end to her track season during the summer. She looks to carry over her success in track to the cross country conference championship on Saturday.
Johnson and Harbour met before the season and agreed to have her race much less in the early part of the cross country season to rest and recover for the bigger cross country meets throughout the season. She said it was difficult sometimes to see her team line up for meets without her, but is thankful for the time off now.
“In my freshman year and sophomore year, I was always racing every single race,” Johnson said. “So, it’s really nice this year to race on fresher legs and bigger races.”
Like the women’s team with Iowa State, the men know who they’re targeting and what their goal is. That is to beat Oklahoma State and eventually make it to the national championship meet.
“The goal that we’ve had all season is to make it to nationals, and [the Big 12 Cross Country Championship] is our big, big test to prove that we have what it takes to make it, at regionals,” senior Jonathan Tijerina said.
For most of the season, the men’s team has been led by freshman Eric Anderson. The senior runners usually follow Anderson’s lead. Overall, it pushes the runners, regardless of age or classification, to be the best they can be, he said.
“It’s great motivation,” Tijerina said. “Freshman traditionally come in, run well and then sort of fizzle out towards the end of the season. Eric has held up really, really well. I think that this is a chance for us to again have great races and show what we can do.”