It may not have quite the same ring as the battle cry from General Sam Houston’s army: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!”
But if “Remember Wisconsin!” seems to motivate the Baylor women’s cross country team, who can argue?
Overall, it’s been a dynamic season for the Baylor team — minus one rough performance at the Big 12 Championships. But the Bears are trying to ignore that slip-up in favor of remembering how they performed at meets like Notre Dame and Wisconsin. They finished fifth in both of those meets, amid a field of a bevy of the top teams in the country.
So, heading into Saturday’s NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., Baylor wants to replicate the kind of effort they showed in Madison and South Bend.
“I think even if we just ran as well as we did at Wisconsin, we’d be setting ourselves up to be in contention for a top-10, top-15 placing,” Baylor sophomore transfer Lindsey Bradley said. “But the thing is, I think we’re capable of even more than what we showed at Wisconsin, which is super-exciting.”
Following those meets, Baylor ascended as high as No. 12 in the national rankings. But a stumble at the Big 12 Championships sent the team plummeting back to earth. Senior Peyton Thomas went out fast on a rigorous course in Lubbock and labored with her breathing, and wasn’t able to finish the race. Baylor’s top five are extremely talented, but the squad isn’t deep enough to absorb a DNF from one of their usual scoring runners.
The pollsters dropped Baylor to No. 25 following that performance, and the Bears climbed to their current spot at No. 23 after a handle-your-business second-place showing at the NCAA South Central Regionals.
“We had one bad race, and right now the coaches in the poll are holding us accountable, and that’s fine,” Baylor coach Todd Harbour said. “Top 15 (at nationals) is going to be good, top 20 I’ll be happy but I know we’re better than that.”
If all of Baylor’s top five runners were able to hit with one of their best races of the year, a top 10 national finish isn’t out of the realm of possibility, Harbour said. Baylor has beaten No. 10 San Francisco and No. 11 Notre Dame twice apiece this year, and finished three points behind No. 6 New Mexico at another race.
Bradley, a transfer from Washington, said it would be a mistake to dismiss the Bears’ competitive fire.
“Our girls don’t come across as competitive or fired up or anything, but we definitely are,” she said. “We show it in different ways. We manifest that in races, and I think our team is probably the most hard-working team in the NCAA. We’re just ready to go. We all have some individual goals that if we can achieve, then our whole team is going to benefit from that.”
Thomas, Bradley, freshman Anna West and senior Maggie Montoya all ran to all-region performances at last week’s meet in Fayetteville, Ark. Montoya has finished no lower than 11th in any race this year. She was 86th at last year’s NCAA meet, competing as an individual.
At the NCAA meet, it’s imperative to bust out at the start and not get caught in the back of the thick pack, Harbour said. He has drilled that strategy into his team’s head throughout the year, ad nauseam.
“We’ve got to get out. It’s critical at NCs. We did it at Notre Dame, we did it at Wisconsin,” Harbour said. “So they know how to get out. So we’ve prepared for the NCAA meet. We did a workout last week that was better than any group that I’ve ever had. It’s a fast workout, and they rolled on it.”
The women’s 6,000-meter race at the LaVern Gibson Course will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The 31-team field is made up of 18 teams that automatically qualified with a top-two regional finish, like Baylor, plus 13 others who earned at-large berths.
NCAA CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: LaVern Gibson Course, Terre Haute, Ind.