Oct. 12, 2005
Youth and experience. Those two words are probably the best to describe the 2005 versions of the Baylor men's and women's cross country teams. Heading into 2005, fans of the Baylor cross country teams will see many of the same faces competing for the women's team while the men's team will feature several new and young runners.
With so many of last year's top performers returning on the women's side, head coach Todd Harbour believes this year's team could be one of the best in school history.
Although the men will not have as high as expectations as the women heading into the year, Harbour believes the experience the young team gains will help make next year's men's team one of the best Baylor men's cross country teams in recent memory.
"We will be extremely experienced on the women's side," head coach Todd Harbour said. "If we stay healthy, we have the goal of being one of the top 15 teams in the country as well as one of the top teams in the conference. Although the men's team does not have those kinds of expectations, I expect them to compete hard and I think they could surprise some people this year with some of their results."
One reason the women are expected to be among the top teams in the country is the return of junior runner Brittany Brockman. After finishing last year with all-conference and all-region honors, Harbour believes she will be one of the leaders of this year's team.
"Brittany (Brockman) had an outstanding sophomore year and has worked hard to continue to improve as she continues her career," Harbour said. "She should be one of the top runners in the conference this season."
In addition to Brockman, Monique Ortega returns for her junior season and should provide the women's team with quality depth. Ortega had a breakout season in 2004, earning all-region honors while setting a personal record at the 2004 NCAA South Central Regional.
"Monique (Ortega) also had a strong year for us last season," Harbour said. "She has turned into a consistent runner and will be extremely valuable for us this year."
A pair of sisters should also have a strong impact on the success of the 2005 women's team as freshman Erin Bedell joins sophomore returnee Lyndsy Bedell on this year's squad. Last season, Lyndsy Bedell earned all-region honors for the Bears as Erin Bedell enters her career at Baylor as one of the most decorated high school runners the Bears have ever seen.
"With Lyndsy (Bedell), her return gives us three runners who returned after earning all-region honors a year ago," Harbour said. "She has worked extremely hard and we should see her as one of our top runners this year."
The addition of Lyndsy's sister, Erin, gives Baylor another runner who should compete with some of the top runners in the conference from the start. During her senior season, E. Bedell was named Texas Girl's Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year and holds the Texas state records in cross country, 1,600-meters and 800-meters. In addition, Bedell has already competed at an international level for several different Junior Team USA squads.
"Erin (Bedell) was one of the top recruits in the country and should make an immediate impact," Harbour said. "She should make an immediate contribution and make our team a little deeper than we were a year ago."
Another runner who should see significant time among the top five runners for Baylor throughout the fall is sophomore Lauren Hagans. Last season, Hagans just missed out on all-region honors after finishing 26th and has performed well over the summer and should continue to shine for Baylor during her second year.
"Ever since she has stepped on campus, Lauren (Hagans) has worked extremely hard to improve," Harbour said. "She should continue to have strong showings this season."
Sophomore Jessi Barnes, junior Brittany McGuire and sophomore transfer Adrian Robinson, who was the number one runner at Nebraska-Kearney should give Baylor one of the deepest teams in recent memory, giving Harbour reason to believe this could be one of the best teams in recent memory.
"We may be a little deeper than we have been in the past," Harbour said. "The returning runners have worked hard and have put us in the position where we can compete with the top teams in the conference and the nation. If all goes well, we should get back to the NCAA championships and improve on our performance from a year ago."
With the women's team returning a wealth of experience in 2005, it originally looked as if the men's team would return a good amount of experience this year as well. However, injuries have sidelined several of Baylor's top men's runners before the start of the season, forcing Harbour to redshirt the other top returning runners in hopes the experience gained by the newcomers this year could help make the 2006 team a force.
"After a couple of runners were sidelined with injuries, we felt like it would be a good idea to have our newcomers carry the load this season," Harbour said. "They will gain valuable experience, and with runners like Bo (Price), Cody (Wells) and Rob (Morrow) taking this year off, it should make next year's team a strong one."
With Price redshirting for his senior season, Baylor will not have its top performer available to the team this year. Last season, Price earned all-conference honors as well as capturing all-region honors at the NCAA South Central Regional.
In addition to Price, Rob Morrow, Cody Wells and Mitch Sanders will also redshirt after running for Baylor last season in hopes of preparing for a strong 2006 campaign.
With the four returning letter-winners redshirting the 2005 season, it leaves Baylor with only one runner returning from the 2004 squad, sophomore Jacob Jones. Jones should lead the Baylor team in 2005 after competing in four races last season for the Bears, including the Big 12 Championships.
"Jacob (Jones) needs to be ready to go," Harbour said. "He will have to set the pace for all the younger runners this year and show them what it takes to compete at this level."
With several experienced runners redshirting on the men's side this season, eight newcomers enter the year looking to make a significant contribution. Among those is freshman John Wenhold, a runner Harbour believes can have an immediate impact.
"John (Wenhold) is the front-runner for the guy who should be able to step in and contribute immediately," Harbour said. "However, I have been impressed with all the newcomers and their ability to come in and show that they are ready to do what it takes to compete at this level."
Although Harbour acknowledges this year's team may not finish at the top of the conference, he believes the team can show Baylor fans the future of the men's cross country team is bright.
"Last year's team faced the same sort of adversity and they brought themselves up to respectability within the conference," Harbour said. "I think this year's team can see the future plan and perform in a manner that will show 2005 is the first step in making the 2006 squad a special one."
One advantage for the Baylor cross country teams this season is that the school will host the 10th Annual Big 12 Cross Country Championships on Friday, Oct. 28. It marks the first time Baylor will host the championships and will give the Bears an opportunity to hold one of the year's most important meets in an environment they are familiar with.
For the event, Baylor will unveil its new home cross country course, Bear Run Cross Country Course, located near Lake Waco. The course, created on land donated by the Army Corps of Engineers, could be one of the most unique in the country.
"It is one of the only courses in the country where fans will have an opportunity to see the entire race without moving from a particular spot," Harbour said. "It is great to be hosting the event and we are excited to unveil the course for such a prestigious event."
In addition to the Big 12 Championships, Baylor will host the NCAA South Central Regional at Cottonwood Creek Country Club on Saturday, Nov. 12. At the event, the top two teams on the men's and women's side will advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Although Baylor will be running two of its most important meets of the season on familiar courses, Harbour knows the Bears will have to perform extremely well in order to improve on last year's results.
"We run in an extremely tough conference and region," Harbour said. "However, after seeing how hard everybody on the two teams worked over the summer, I believe we will be able to compete and impro