After finishing second at the regional meet, the Baylor women's cross country team will be one of 31 squads running at the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
"If we run to our potential like we did earlier this year, I think top 10 is definitely doable," head coach Todd Harbour said. "I think this team is better than the team that finished 19th up there two years ago. My expectation is for us to go run well and run like we did at regionals and I think we will like the result.”
The women's 6,000-meter race will be the first event of the day at 10 a.m. CT at the LaVern Gibson Course.
The Baylor women jumped from No. 25 to No. 23 in the USTFCCCA coaches poll, after the second-place regional finish. However, the Lady Bears had risen to the season-high point of No. 12 after a fifth-place finish at the Wisconsin Invitational.
Baylor's squad now features four All-Region performers in seniors Maggie Montoya and Peyton Thomas, sophomore Lindsey Bradley and freshman Anna West. Freshman Gabby Satterlee was BU's fifth runner at the regional meet. Senior Madie Zimmerman finished sixth, while freshman Hana Marsheck was seventh for the Lady Bears last week in Fayetteville, Ark. Freshman Kathryn Foreman is expected to be back for the national race after sitting out the regional race with an injury.
Montoya has finished no lower than 11th overall in any of her six races this year. She was second in the regional meet and sixth at the Big 12 Championship. Bradley has been a scoring runner in all four of her races this fall, including fifth and third-place finishes at the Big 12 and regional meets, respectively. Satterlee and West have been in BU’s top-five in every race they have run this season, while Thomas did not finish the conference race, but rebounded to be 13th at the regional meet.
“We can’t let the moment get too big,” Harbour added. “We are going to go up there and have fun. Maggie is really, really hungry after last year, so she has big goals. We have a few of our girls that want to be All-American really bad and that’s a good thing. They just need to run their race and get out. We have prepared for the NCAA meet all year, so I am confident that we will get off the line and run our race.”
The Lady Bears ran on the LaVern Gibson course two years ago, placing 19th as a team at the NCAA Championships. Three members of this year’s squad competed in that race, including Montoya (44th, 20:49.6), Thomas (193rd, 21:53.2) and Zimmerman (240th, 22:45.4).
Montoya also has had experience at the national meet individually, going in 2015. She finished 86th in a time of 20:45.9.
Overall on Saturday, BU will be making its 16th NCAA team appearance and the ninth in 16 years under Harbour. The Lady Bears’ highest ever finish was eighth in 1998, while under Harbour the Bears highest finish is 15th in 2005.
The national field is made up of 18 squads that automatically qualified for the event by placing first or second at one of nine regionals around the country. Thirteen other teams earned at-large berths, while 38 individuals also garnered a spot by being a top runner not on an advancing team.
Each of the 31 teams will be running their top seven runners, but as in other races this fall, only the top five times from those seven runners will count towards the team score.