Cross country teams head to Big 12 Championships


File photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s Hillary Bor moves to take first in the 1-mile run during the 2010 Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championships. Bor will lead the ISU cross country team into the 2010 season.

Kevin Shay

The ISU men’s and women’s cross country teams are headed to Stillwater, Okla., this weekend to compete in the Big 12 Championships, and the women’s side believes they have a shot at being champions.

“I think we’re in the conversation of teams that have a chance to come out on top,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “We can run really well and finish third, or we could run really well and win.”

The women are anchored by Kenya native Aliphine Tuliamuk. Tuliamuk is enjoying a much improved sophomore season due to her improved off-season workout habits, and already has two top-five finishes to show for it.

“Last year, I didn’t have much stamina,” Tuliamuk said. “I did [run] a lot more miles this year, so I think that is what’s helped my improvement this year.”

The coaches have taken notice of the work she’s put in as well.

“She’s in shape now. She wasn’t in top shape last year,” said assistant coach Travis Hartke. “She’s probably one of the toughest girls I’ve ever seen.”

Even though Ihmels is proud of Tuliamuk’s improvement, it’s the women’s depth that has him and the rest of the team thinking about a championship.

“Alphine’s come in and done a really good job, but Betsy [Saina] and Semehar [Tesfaye] have yet to run their best race,” Ihmels said. “I think they’ll come around this weekend, and Lucy Kennedy has been solid all year and keeps improving.”

However, four runners do not make a race, as the top five runners from each team will contribute to its final score. The Cyclones, who rank 11th nationally, will need one or more of the other women to run a good race to have a chance at finishing above Texas Tech and Colorado, who rank fourth and seventh.

“For us to win we have to have three or four really banging in the front, and have a fifth runner really step up,” Ihmels said. “I think it’s possible, and we’ll probably have to have another team mess up somewhere along the way to win.”

The Red Raider women won the 2009 Big 12 Championships while the Cyclones finished third. The men’s side finished fourth behind Oklahoma, Colorado and Oklahoma State; with Oklahoma State hosting this year as defending champions.

The men’s side is led by three-time track and field All-American Hillary Bor, who feels like he is beginning to peak at the right time.

“I think it’s been going all right the last couple weeks,” Bor said. “I wasn’t feeling good earlier [this season]. I am feeling more fit [now] than I have the last three years. I’m going to be looking forward to a great [end to the] season.”

Ihmels believes Bor is primed for a good conference meet, and is satisfied with Bor’s performance this year.

“He’s had an OK year,” Ihmels said of Bor. “I think he’ll show up this week in conference. He usually shows up on big days, so we should be ready to roll.”

However, Bor is not the only men’s runner attempting to reach his potential. The rest of the team has not had the strongest of season’s either.

“I think we have a lot of strength in our cross country, but I don’t think the guys have shown it yet,” Hartke said. “I think we’re always improving. We should be in the top four if we run well.”

The championships will begin with the women’s 6,000-meter run at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the men running the 8,000-meter layout at the OSU Cross Country Course.

The women’s side hopes they will be bringing some new hardware back to Ames on their bus ride home Saturday afternoon.

“We have to work really hard,” Saina said. “We need two people in the top five.”

Tuliamuk put it even more simple terms.

“We’ll try as a team to not let others lead,” Tuliamuk said. “We just want to win.”