Oct. 25, 2012
Big 12 Championship Central
WACO, Texas -
The Baylor men's and women's cross country teams will travel south to Austin, Texas for the 17th-annual Big 12 Championships on Saturday at the Jimmy Clay Golf Course.
"Our teams are ready to go," head coach Todd Harbour said. "We are going to lineup and compete hard."
The women's 6,000-meter race will kick off the action at 10 a.m. CT, followed by the men's 8,000-meter race at 11 a.m. CT. In each race, the team with the best top-five runners will be crowned Big 12 champions and the top 15 runners in each race will earn all-conference honors. Admission to the event is free to the public.
With the Big 12 being one of the top conferences in the nation, Baylor will face five ranked teams on the men's side and three on the women's side. For the men, the field features No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 Texas, No. 25 Iowa State and No. 30 Kansas. The BU women will face the ranked trio of No. 2 Iowa State, No. 14 Texas and No. 27 Oklahoma State. All of the Big 12's 10 schools compete in cross country on the women's side, while West Virginia is the lone school to not field a team for men's competition.
Baylor will look to improve on last season's 9th-place men's and 10th-place women's showing. Last season's 10th-place finish for the women marked only the third time in the 16-year history of the Big 12 to finish below seventh place. All-time, the Lady Bears have the second best average finish among any of the current Big 12 members. They have averaged a 5.5 finish, just behind Texas Tech's average of 5.47.
For the men, sophomore Brad Miles has been the top runner for the Bears in three of four races this fall. BU's freshmen quartet, Matt Cochran, JR Hardy, Chris McElroy and Kyle Scanlan, have also contributed to the Bears cause this year. Ben Allen, Derwin Graham, Taylor Jackson, Blake Niccum and Jonathan Tijerina are the other runners, who will round out Baylor's allotment of 10 for the event. The Bears finished second at both the Bear Twilight Invitational and the UTA Season Opener, before taking 16th at the Stanford Invitational and 13th at the Chile Pepper Festival.
"This year we have been a little bit all over the place," assistant coach Jon Capron said. "This is a huge audition for regionals, so I expect our guys to lay it all on the line on Saturday. I expect Brad to lead the charge, but the depth overall has been pretty encouraging. We haven't been hugely assertive this year, but I think we have learned to be more assertive up front."
For the women, sophomore Rachel Johnson has been the top finisher for Baylor in all four of the races she has competed in. She took top individual honors at both the Bear Twilight Invitational and the UTA Season Opener to help Baylor to first-place team finishes in both of those meets.
"On the women's side, we just don't have much depth," Harbour said. "We have to close the gap between our fourth and fifth runners and I think we have some girls on our team that can fill that gap."
Sophomores Mariah Kelly and Bree Schrader have also placed in the top-five in all four races this fall, while Leah Frazier has stepped up with two top-five finishes in her last three races. The rest of the women's team includes Haleigh Blackwell, Courtney Cox, Lauren Hierholzer, Kim Kirby, Brittany OgunMokun and Erika Overbeck.
Following the Big 12 meet, the Bears will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., with their top seven runners on the men's and women's side for the NCAA South Central Regional on Nov. 9.
Complete results, a recap and video highlights of the Big 12 Championships will be available on BaylorBears.com following the conclusion of the event.