By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
The Baylor Bears will host the 24th annual Big 12 Cross Country Championship meet Saturday at Cottonwood Creek in Waco
Having trained on Cottonwood throughout the year, the Bears have the home-field advantage, but senior Matt Henderson said that the course will still provide a fair challenge.
“It’s a cross country course…There are some hard parts, there’s some easy parts. It’s, I would say, pretty well rounded and a fair course. It’ll be a good race,” Henderson said. “Yes, we have the advantage but that doesn’t mean the race will be handed down to us or that it will be an easy one. The other teams are pretty well prepared.”
Aside from the familiarity of the course, the weather also looks favorable for the Saturday morning start. With temperatures ranging from the high 40s to the high 50s, the Bears will be running in much cooler weather than they have been for most of the fall. California senior Gabby Satterlee said the “cool weather and running pairs very well” in her book.
“We don’t usually have that here and it gives us a chance to warm up really nice and stay cool throughout the race,” Satterlee said.
The Bears are coming off a tune-up at the Arturo Barrios Invitational in College Station, where the women placed 12th in the 6,000-meter race and the men finished 22nd in the 8,000-meter race. Senior Gabby Satterlee led the women in the 42nd spot with a time of 21:36.5 and was followed by sophomore Celia Holmes with a personal-best 6K at 21:50.5 to take the 51st spot. Senior Lindsay Walton, returning for her first race after sitting out sick when the team competed in Arkansas, placed 69th with a personal-best 22:00.0 in the 6K as well.
Walton said the meet in College Station was good preparation for the Big 12 race.
“We’ve kind of had some injuries. I’ve been sick…I think we’re far away from that now to see us maybe in full force. So, I’m hoping to see us outperform,” Walton said.
Junior TJ Sugg led Baylor on the men’s side for the third-consecutive meet, finishing 59th with a time of 25:01.6. Junior Connor Laktasic (70th, 25:09.6), sophomore Ryan Day (98th, 25:31.2), freshman Cal Johnston (134th, 26:03.9) and freshman Philip Roxas (147th, 26:14.7) all recorded personal-bests to round out the Bears’ top five.
The men’s team has also had some injuries this fall, most notably freshman Ryan Hodge, who ran in the first two meets but missed the Arturo Barrios meet recently. Hodge should be back for the championship as well. Henderson said having runners coming off rest will be good for the team.
“Sometimes injury can kind of give guys a break,” Henderson said. “It’s also just a sign that maybe they were overcooking themselves during the workouts. So, it can be a good thing and I think for Hodge especially, he’s a great, hard worker, so this will help him last throughout this meet and up to regionals.”
The Iowa State Cyclones come to Waco as the reigning champs in both the men’s and women’s races two years in a row, with the women’s having won the last three. ISU swept the 2018 championship, taking the team awards after senior Edwin Kurgat and junior Cailie Logue claimed the individual titles. The Cyclone’s men’s team is ranked No. 5 in the USTFCCCA national coaches’ poll and is No. 1 in the Midwest region. The women’s team is also ranked regionally at No. 7.
Head coach Jon Capron said he is most excited to have everyone back on the course for this meet as well, as having a more complete team will give the Bears a better chance to push the pack forward against some talented teams like Iowa State and Texas.
“We haven’t had a meet this year where everybody’s been ready to go so getting almost everybody, I think we’ve got everybody going, I’m really excited to see what that means,” Capron said. “I think everybody’s had a good meet at A&M right before this, but nowhere near what we’re capable of and I think it’s a good jumping off point. So, I think we’re confident of what we did but knowing that we have a little bit more in the tank and that’s kind of where I want to be right now.”
The men’s 8K race is set for a 10 a.m. start with the women’s 6K following at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course.