By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
"I'll just find Lindsey during the race and do what we do. The Peanuts are in action," the 5-foot-1 sophomore said of her Baylor teammate. "I think when you make it more like a practice in your head and think, `Oh, I'm just running with a teammate,' it makes the big field seem small and makes it way more manageable. If you think, `I'm racing against 250 girls,' that sounds intimidating. But when you think, `I'm racing with one girl,' it gives me way more confidence."
Posting the fastest 6,000-meter times in program history, West and Bradley finished 3-4 at last week's NCAA South Central Regional with times of 19:40.0 and 19:42.3, respectively, and earned individual berths for Saturday's NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky. The women's 6K race starts at 9:45 a.m. CDT at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.
"We were talking, and we can't imagine going alone," said the 5-foot-2 Bradley, a junior from Richland, Wash., who transferred from Washington after her freshman season. "I don't even know what that would feel like or be like. We train together every single day, we race together, we've gone through everything together. I can't even tell you how great it is to have Anna here."
Coach Todd Harbour said West and Bradley both have a good shot at earning All-America honors by finishing in the top 40. Baylor's had six cross country athletes earn a total of eight All-America honors, the last being Rachel Johnson, who was fifth individually in 2014 to match the program's all-time best finish (Natalie Nalepa, 1991).
"If we can just get them to grab a hold of who they are, on paper they have a great shot," Harbour said. "They had two of the fastest 6Ks ever run on that course - I think they're 4 and 5 - and the other ones on that list are big-time All-Americans, they're all top-10 girls at nationals. And they're right there with them."
Kansas All-American Sharon Lokedi has won back-to-back Big 12 Championships and placed fifth at last year's NCAA meet. West and Bradley finished second and third, respectively, at this year's Big 12 meet and came within 10 seconds of Lokedi.
"They should know, `OK, we ran with her at conference.' She didn't beat them by that much at conference. So, they've got a shot," Harbour said. "Top 40 up there, it's a hot commodity, everybody wants it. There are going to be a lot of girls trying to get that All-America honor, but these two have a great chance."
One of the keys, Harbour said, is not getting "cut off" and getting out to a good start, so that you don't get stuck in the back of the pack.
"It's all about getting out," he said. "That's why we go to those big meets (at Wisconsin and Notre Dame), because they get that experience. Can you get out and can you get yourself in the race? If you don't, you have to go to Plan B and you have to be patient and work your way up. You can't panic. If you can get out, now it's just let's go run, and I like their chances."
Bradley had top-15 finishes at both Notre Dame and Wisconsin each of the last two years, but she struggled at last year's NCAA Championships and finished 175th. Last year as a freshman, West was Baylor's second finisher at nationals, placing 120th overall in 20:55.2.
"I think we'll thrive with the big field," Bradley said. "I think we're used to it by now, that we can really just find our way and find our pack and just keep moving on up. . . . (Lokedi) is a great person to key off of. Once we see her in the race, we'll kind of know where we should be and what kind of pace we should be running, because I know we're both capable of running with those types of girls. Once we just tell ourselves, `we're confident, that we can do it,' then there's no stopping us."
FloTrack is offering live video streaming of Saturday's race for subscribers, with live results available at www.ncaa.com.
WACO, Texas -- Baylor women's cross country's Lindsey Bradley and Anna West will individually compete at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships Saturday morning in Louisville, Ky.
The women's 6,000-meter race will be the first event of the day at 9:45 a.m. CT at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.
"(Lindsey and Anna) are two of the finest ladies that I've ever coached," head coach Todd Harbour said. "You can say enough great things about them and who they are. They'd love to have their teammates up there, but both have a great shot at running All-America up there. On paper, they've got a great shot. There's a lot of girls trying to get that All-America honor, but these two have a great chance."
The Two Bears qualified out of the NCAA South Central Regional Championships last Saturday, finishing in third and fourth to earn the at-large bids. They are the first individual qualifiers since Maggie Montoya ran at the championship meet in 2015 and are the eighth and ninth runners in program history to compete individually.
West and Bradley were a scoring runner in every meet they competed in this season and head into Saturday's championship with their second consecutive All-Big 12 and All-Region honors.
The top 40 finishers of the women's race will receive All-America distinction. Baylor currently has eight NCAA All-America honors with six different athletes, the most recent being Rachel Johnson in 2014.
A live web stream of the meet will be provided by FloTrack to paid subscribers. Meanwhile, live results of the race will be available via NCAA.com.
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.