Nov. 10, 2016
WACO, Texas - Baylor's cross country teams will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the NCAA South Central Region Championship on Friday.
The women's 6,000 meters will be the first race of the day at 11 a.m., followed by the men's 10,000-meter race at 12 p.m. at the Agri Park Course.
As part of the South Central Region, the Bears will face teams from Arkansas, Louisiana and the eastern half of Texas. For only the fifth time in the last 14 seasons, Baylor will not be hosting the regional.
Regional teams will put their top seven runners out in an effort to be one of the top two teams in the regional and in turn earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. As in other races this fall, only the top five times from those seven runners will count towards the team score.
Along with the top two teams, the top four individuals not on an advancing team receive an automatic berth into the national meet. Additional teams and individuals are chosen through an at-large selection process for the 2016 NCAA Championship, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 19, in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Baylor women are currently No. 3 in the USTFCCCA's South Central regional rankings and ranked 25th in the country. The Baylor men are seventh in the USTFCCCA's South Central regional rankings.
Following a fifth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships, the BU women will only face conference foes Texas and TCU on Friday. Last season, the Baylor women were fourth at the regional as Maggie Montoya earned All-Region honors and a spot in the NCAA Championship field with a second-place finish overall. Peyton Thomas produced her first All-Region with a seventh-place finish.
On the women's side, Baylor's seven runners will come from these eight traveling athletes, Lindsey Bradley, Kathryn Foreman, Hana Marsheck, Montoya, Gabby Satterlee, Thomas, Anna West and Madie Zimmerman
"We've got to go back to running smart," head coach Todd Harbour said. "This is a young group. They're not an old veteran team that's been through a lot of battles in running regionals and nationals the next week. They're ready for it. Mentally, they know we can do it. To be in the spot that we're in right now, that means you go up and hit a home run at Notre Dame and then hit another home run at Wisconsin, that's pretty big. That helped them a lot. It takes some pressure off this weekend. Let's go run, let's do what we need to do."
Besides Montoya and Thomas returning, the Bears will also have Zimmerman, who ran on last year's regional squad. Meanwhile, Bradley, Foreman, Marsheck, Satterlee and West could be getting their first regional experience for Baylor.
The Baylor men dropped to seventh in the regional poll, after claiming seventh at the Big 12 Championship. The Bears will be looking to improve upon last season's sixth-place finish at the regional meet.
On the men's side, Baylor's seven runners will come from this travel group of eight including, Eric Anderson, Jeff Kirwin, Matt League, Sean McCullough, Devin Meyrer, Matthew Parham, Sam Sahli and Jordan West.
"I'm encouraged," assistant head coach Jon Capron said. "I think we've got a little bit to fight for and I just want this team to run to its potential, I still don't think we've done it. Whether our potential is third, second, fourth, fifth, I'll be pleased."
Anderson, League and Parham all ran on last season's regional squad for BU, while Anderson has been the lead runner for the Bears in all four of his races this season.
Complete results and a recap of the meet will be available on BaylorBears.com following the event.
To stay current on all things Baylor cross country, follow the team on Twitter: @BaylorTrack.
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
With all the head-to-head wins accumulated in strong fifth-place showings at the Notre Dame and Wisconsin, the 25th-ranked Baylor women's cross country team has lots of "hay in the barn."
Even if the Bears don't finish in the top two at Friday's NCAA South Central Region Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., netting an automatic qualifying spot for next week's NCAA Championships, they are considered a virtual lock for one of the 13 at-large berths.
"There's just no way, unless the wheels totally come off and we finish back in seventh or eighth (at the region meet)," coach Todd Harbour said.
But, why leave anything to chance?
"I told them, `Ladies, you want to come home with a smile on your face,''' Harbour said. "It's a long drive back from Fayetteville. You don't want to come back going, `Oh yeah, now we've got to wait till Sunday to find out.'''
Two years ago, Harbour figured the women were a shoo-in after strong showings at the Roy Griak and Pre-National meets. But thankfully they finished second at regional, "because as it turned out, when the regionals all shake out, teams you thought were going to get an automatic don't get an automatic."
Senior Peyton Thomas said the team is "not going to rely on our wins, just to be safe." "Also, because we know we're in shape to be a top-two team in regionals, we're ready to race against Arkansas, and I think we'll run really well."
Tied for seventh in the latest USTFCCCA national rankings, the Arkansas women are heavily favored to win their sixth consecutive region title, with Baylor and SMU battling for the other automatic spot. The women's 6,000-meter race starts at 11 a.m. at Agri Park, with the men's 10K scheduled to start at noon.
"When you go up and hit a home run at Notre Dame and then hit another home run at Wisconsin, that's big," Harbour said. "We've had some other teams that ran well at nationals that had to sweat it out. . . . That kind of takes some of the pressure off this weekend. Let's just go run and do what we need to do."
Baylor had climbed to as high as 12th in the national poll, but fell 13 spots after a disappointing fifth-place showing at the Big 12 Championship in Lubbock, when Thomas passed out with about a mile to go. It was the second year in a row that Thomas didn't finish the conference race.
"I think it may have just been the altitude, and it was pretty dry (at Lubbock). I'm not used to that," Thomas said. "I talked to my doctor about it, and he said it was probably just too dry for my lungs. . . . It was definitely disappointing, but you have to learn to get over it and focus on what's ahead."
Last year, Thomas bounced back with a seventh-place finish at the region meet, missing a trip to the NCAA Championships by just one spot. In addition to the first- and second-place teams, the top four runners on non-advancing teams also earn spots at the national meet.
"I think you'll see a different team this weekend," Harbour said. "This is a year where if we had nine girls, and I could rest (freshman Gabby Satterlee), I would go after Arkansas and try to win the regional. But, I don't think it would be worth it to run too hard at regional. We want to run well at the NCAA meet, but we would still like to get that top two (at regional)."
Baylor's seven runners will come from a traveling group of eight that includes Thomas and fellow seniors Maggie Montoya and Madie Zimmerman, sophomore Lindsey Bradley and freshmen Kathryn Foreman, Hana Marsheck, Anna West and Satterlee.
Assistant coach Jon Capron doesn't have the luxury of possibly resting one of his top runners on the men's side. While their goals are certainly not as high as the women, they would still like to improve on their seventh-place showing at the Big 12 meet and No. 7 regional ranking.
"I think we've got a little bit to fight for, and I just want the team to run to its potential, whether that's second, third, fourth or fifth," Capron said. "We've done things that I think are beyond what the team did last year."
Junior Eric Anderson has led the team in each of the four races this fall, including third-place finishes at the Bear Twilight and Ken Garland Invitational and 31st at the Big 12 meet.
"I feel like we'll be ready to bounce back, and we'll prove that the rankings may be a little bit off," Anderson said. "We're trying to get into that 4 or 5 position for regionals. And if somebody slips up, perhaps we can jump into that second spot and get a spot for nationals."
Capron will pick seven runners from a travel group of eight that includes seniors Matt League and Jordan West, juniors Matthew Parham, Sam Sahli and Anderson, sophomores Jeff Kirwin and Sean McCullough and freshman Devin Meyrer.
"I really think we can put three or four guys in the top 25 if we have a really good day, and that's what we expect to do. Get out fast and stay there," Anderson said.
The NCAA Championships will be held the following Saturday, Nov. 19, in Terre Haute, Ind.