TERRE HAUTE, Ind., Sporting Alert – It would take something special for Oklahoma State to secure a top four place in the men’s event at the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships this weekend, Cowboys experienced head coach Dave Smith has conceded.
Oklahoma State is ranked No. 8 in the nation and has usual, ran sparingly this year with Smith once again putting together a schedule to enable his team to stay fresh for the postseason.
The four-time national champion heads to Terre Haute, Indiana, ranked behind the likes of Northern Arizona, Colorado, Stanford, BYU and Syracuse, but Smith, who believes “you’ve got to be a little bit lucky on race day” remains optimistic.
Oklahoma State Needs Best Race To Win
He acknowledged it will likely take at least season’s bests to get on the podium on Saturday, but added that it’s not “impossible.”
If Oklahoma State is going to win its first national title in four years, frontmen Josh Thompson, Hassan Abdi and Sylvester Barus will need to stack up well with the leaders, while the likes of Christian Liddell and Anthoney Armstrong will need to stay close.
“I think it would take the best race of the season for each guy on our team to get on the podium,” Smith told SportingAlert.com on Thursday.
“That is difficult, but not impossible, to do. We have put together similar races at the NCAA championships before. 2010 is a great example.”
“It seems like we have been getting better as a team each week. We had a couple of individuals go through some tough spots in the middle of the season but they also seem to be returning to early season form.
Northern Arizona beat several of its fellow title rivals, including Standford, BYU, Syracuse and Iona in a deep field at the Wisconsin Invitational in October, before claiming the Mountain Region meet last week.
The Lumberjacks, along with Colorado and Stanford, are the experts’ top picks on the men’s side, but Smith, whose team won the Big 12 and Midwest Region titles recently, believes any one of the teams ranked in the top 10 is capable of lifting the national crown.
The Best On The Day Will Win
However, he noted the team that wins this weekend will either “have a great day” or the rest of the field have a terrible day.
“I believe that any of the top 10 or so teams is good enough to win this year on the right day,” he tells SportingAlert. “The team who wins is going to have a great day.
“Maybe some of the teams who do not win have a terrible day. There is a lot of parity amongst the men’s teams and I don’t think there is a clear favourite and probably if any of those top 10 teams win, it won’t be shocking.
“We will [then] look back in retrospect and say, “well, yeah, clearly that team was good. Look at X, Y and Z from the regular season as evidence of how good they were.'”
The Cowboys won three cross country national championships under the guidance of coach Smith, including back-to-back crowns in 2009 and 2010.
And besides the injured Cerake Geberkidane, everyone is healthy.
“We are healthy other than Cerake Geberkidane who might be our most talented cross country runner,” Smith revealed.
“He has had a frustrating injury that has kept him out of the entire season.”
Oklahoma State, which is undefeated this season, last won the NCAA National Championships in 2012.