Iowa State cross country heads to Midwest NCAA Regional Meet

Kevin Shay

The ISU men’s and women’s cross country teams area headed to Peoria, Ill., this weekend to compete in the Midwest NCAA Regional Meet hosted by Bradley University.

Both the men and women are hoping to improve on their somewhat disappointing results in the recent Big 12 Championships. The women finished third behind Texas Tech and Colorado, while the men had a sour taste in their mouth after finishing fifth behind champion Oklahoma State and fourth-place Texas.

“We probably ran about what we were ranked going in, I just felt our men had a chance to leap-frog Texas, and our women had a chance to kind of be in the mix with the top two,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “So it was a little disappointing, but I feel like we’re still making progress. We’ve had a pretty productive couple weeks training, and hopefully that’ll get to the point where we continue to make progress this weekend.”

The coaches are confident that the women, who enter the region as the top-ranked team (No. 13), will finish in the top two, necessary to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships later this month in Terre Haute, Ind. However, they are not so sure about the men’s team, which is ranked No. 6 in the region.

“We’re in a tough situation with the men, we’ve got an interesting meet Saturday for us to get through to nationals,” Ihmels said. “I think if we’re third we have a chance to get in and that’s possible. We’ll have to run the race we’ve been looking to run all year long.”

After the top two teams from each of the nine regions automatically qualify for the national meet, the NCAA Division I track and field subcommittee selects 13 additional teams for at-large berths into the field of 31.

The top four runners from each of the nine regions that are not a member of an advancing team will also qualify for the national meet. Furthermore, the subcommittee will select two at-large runners for a total of 255 qualified runners; including seven runners per advancing team.

A third-place finish for the men will, in all likelihood, lead to an at-large selection, but doing so will not be an easy task with No. 1 Oklahoma State and the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners.

“We’ve got a tough region with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State,” Ihmels said. “And after that it’s us, Minnesota [No. 24], Tulsa [No. 27], and Illinois. So it’s gonna be a dog-fight for that third spot. It’ll be whoever wants to win in that last 2K, so hopefully we’re up for that challenge.”

Both Illinois and Iowa State are unranked nationally. The ISU men will need a strong performance from Hillary Bor, who, so far, has had an underachieving senior season. Bor has no top-10 finishes yet this season, after three last year — including a fifth-place finish in regionals.

The men will also look for sophomore Rico Loy, freshman Martin Coolidge, and seniors Clayton Carper and Daniel Murray to run a strong race if they intend to advance.

The women will be led by Kenya natives Betsy Saina and Aliphine Tuliamuk, who finished second and third, respectively, at the Big 12 Championships.

“We need Betsy and Aliphine to continue doing what they have been doing all year long,” Ihmels said. “Semehar Tesfaye is someone that needs to step up and run a little closer to Betsy and Aliphine.”

Australian native Lucy Kennedy has also had a solid season to date, along with Dani Stack — who is coming off the best race of her Cyclone career — and India Lee, a native of the United Kingdom.

And even though the women enter the region as the favorites, Ihmels is cautious to simply write them into the championships.

“I think it will be a closer battle than what we think,” Ihmels said. “Oklahoma State ran real well at the conference meet so they’ll be ready to roll, and Minnesota had a good Big Ten [meet]. We’re gonna have to bring our A-game to get it done.”

The women’s 6-kilometer race will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, while the men will follow with a 10-kilometer race at 12:15 p.m.