By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
In preparation for the 2019 Big 12 Championship, Baylor cross country heads back down Highway 6 to College Station for the Arturo Barrios Invitational at Texas A&M’s Dale Watts Cross Country Course.
There will be 18 men’s teams and 17 women’s teams running in the race Saturday morning for a total of 35 ranked squads. Baylor associate head coach Jon Capron said he is excited to see his team compete in a bigger race against some new faces, as well as against teams they have faced all through the fall.
“I think it’s going to be a really good kind of regional competition with some other schools interspersed. I mean you got Pittsburg coming down, Cal Baptist, some pretty good other schools from other regions that are going to kind of float in there, Capron said. “So, there will be a good number of teams that we kind of know really well, that we’ve raced a bunch and some that we haven’t seen that will kind of fill in some of those holes in the race.”
Baylor returns from the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., where the women finished 10th and the men placed 13th.
The 6th-ranked women were led by Waco sophomore Celia Holmes who recorded a personal best in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 17:32.5, shaving a minute from her previous record (18:29.1). Seniors Haley Everroad and Hana Marsheck, and freshman Chloe Gangnath, also recorded personal records in Arkansas.
Holmes said she’s looking forward to build off the team’s strong performance going into the next meet.
“It felt really good just to see the training finally coming into a culmination of a great PR and it makes me excited for the team just that we can all progress together. Definitely encouraging to see the training work out so well,” Holmes said. “We play to our strengths during races, which is always really helpful so I feel like this year we’re working on our unity. It’s obviously paid off in big races.”
Senior Lindsay Walton will return from illness on Saturday and junior Sarah Antrich is set to make her Fall debut during the meet. The biggest challenge for the women this weekend, according to Holmes, might be the extra 1,000 meters they have on the slate as the race is set for a distance of 6,000 meters rather than the usual 5K the Bears have run in previous meets.
On the men’s side, 11th-ranked Baylor will also be running a longer 8,000-meter race. The men finished 13th at Chile Pepper, led by junior TJ Sugg and sophomore Ryan Hodge.
Senior Matt Henderson, who was the Bears’ fourth scoring runner the last time Baylor raced in College Station, had to miss the last meet in Arkansas but will be back in the pack on Saturday. The senior placed 29th overall in his last race and was followed by freshman Cal Johnston who crossed the line at 32nd for Baylor’s final point.
Henderson said that for Baylor to improve upon their last two runs, it will be crucial for the men to tighten up the gap between the fourth and fifth spot this weekend, especially against a stacked field.
“We had a pretty big gap between our fourth runner and fifth runner and as you may know, the top five runners out of how ever many run score,” Henderson said. “So, it’s really important for us to get that fifth spot, whoever it is, at a faster pace than it has been. And usually that comes down to either Cal Johnston or I. So, really individually I’m trying to push Cal and he’ll tug me along too.”
The Bears will host the championship meet at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course on Nov. 2 which will give Baylor fans the opportunity to support the team in a home competition, as the Bears don’t get the chance to race at home very often.
“We’d love to have a good home crowd. It’s kind of one of your only chances to see us run unless you’re willing to get out of town. It’ll be a good field, the full conference, a lot of them will be here,” Capron said.
Baylor will race at the Arturo Barrios Invitational Saturday in College Station.