By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
Baylor cross country hits the road to Ames, Iowa, to compete in the 2018 Big 12 Championships on Friday at the Iowa State Cross Country Course.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are permitted 10 participants, but the men’s team will only field eight due to injuries. Both sophomore Jeremy Meadows and freshman Cal Johnston will sit out this weekend’s race. Baylor associate head coach Jon Capron said the Bears will be thrusting freshman Ryan Day, who was added to the roster last week, into the mix and they are counting on some of the upperclassmen, including sophomores TJ Sugg and Connor Laktasic, to perform well in the absence of Meadows and Johnston.
“Ryan Day is going to make the trip, so we’re pressing him into service rather quickly,” Capron said. “But he has the capability of being able to jump right in there and help, which is impressive. TJ [Sugg] is ready to run a lot better. Connor [Laktasic] is looking great right now. Behind those, I’m expecting some of the seniors that are still here to be in that top five.”
Capron said the Bears, who haven’t finished in the Top 10 at an event since the UTA Invitational on Sept. 7, are still working to put all the pieces together, but the team is ready to compete against high-caliber competition in the Big 12.
“We’re still waiting to hit on all cylinders, really” Capron said. “Excited for the opportunity. We’re ready to go up there and test ourselves against the Big 12 Conference. I think it’s going to be a good race. The course is nice, it always is, at Iowa State. It’s nice to have a permanent course.”
The Bears have competed in three straight events (Joe Piane Invitational, Arturo Barrios Invitational, Pre-Nationals) in which the field consisted of 18 or more schools. On Friday, Baylor will only be competing against the nine other Big 12 schools. Capron said the smaller field size will help the runners focus in on who they need to beat.
“I like the field size,” Capron said. “We’ve struggled a little bit with larger field sizes this year. Being able to say, ‘Ladies, we need to beat this team,’ and ‘Guys, this is the team that we’re going to beat,’ is going to make all the difference in the world to us.”
The 6,000-meter women’s race begins at 10 a.m. and the Bears will send out junior Alison Andrews-Paul, sophomore Brooke Gilmore, junior Gabby Satterlee, freshman Celia Holmes, sophomore Sarah Antrich, junior Haley Everroad, freshman Mazie Larsen, junior Hana Marsheck, junior Katy Parsons and junior Lindsey Walton.
Andrews-Paul said the Bears have high expectations for this meet and plan on finishing in the top three.
“We sat down and talked about our goals,” Andrews-Paul said. “We’re definitely aiming for top three, and we always have been. That’s been on our minds, and if it all comes together on [Friday], I think we can do that.”
The 8,000-meter men’s race begins at 11 a.m. and Baylor will be counting on Laktasic, Sugg, Day, senior Seth Brown, junior Matt Henderson, senior Henry Huff, senior Jeff Kirwin and sophomore J.B. Sandlund.
Laktasic said the Bears have had a tough few weeks with low finishes at big events, but the team is ready to showcase their abilities on Friday.
“We’ve had a rough start, but this is the meet to be able to show what we can do and show what all our hard work and training is about,” Laktasic said. “It’ll be nice to go in there and run and run well and have it all pay off. I think this is the meet to do it.”
Following the Big 12 Championships, the Bears will compete in the NCAA South Central Championships on Nov. 9 in College Station.