Todd Harbour called Lindsey Bradley over to the television screen.
“Hey, Lindsey, check this out,” he said, as the Baylor junior distance dynamo strolled over to where the coach was standing. The TV was in the midst of playing a cut of highlights from the Big 12 indoor track and field championship won by the Baylor women last February.
“Ohhhhhh,” Bradley cooed, as she intently gazed at the screen. “All the feels right now. I’m going to cry.”
Bradley and her Baylor cross country teammates want to revive some of those championship feelings at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Bradley said that Baylor “has a lot of redemption to do” as the conference meet arrives. Last year, the Bears went into the meet as the top-ranked team in the field, hopeful that they could claim the program’s first Big 12 title. Instead, they delivered arguably their most uneven performance of the season in finishing a disappointing fifth.
Though the team made up for that showing somewhat with a second-place regional effort to qualify for the NCAA Championships, they’re driven to show that last year’s Big 12 meet was an aberration.
“I think it’s a combination of last year and just our season this year,” Bradley said. “So, I think a lot of us do have a lot of passion going into the meet this weekend, to not only channel that energy from our Big 12 Indoor championship, but to redeem ourselves from last year and from the season previously.”
Baylor also wants to reverse direction from its last meet out, when it finished 23rd at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. Harbour called that performance “terrible,” though the Bears were saddled by injury and illness, particularly to Bradley, who finished 13th in the race despite running with strep throat.
What Baylor lacked in that meet was a successful pack mentality. The splits between its finishers were too wide, said Harbour, who likes to have no more than a minute difference between his 1 and 5 runners. The difference in Wisconsin was more than three minutes.
“I said, there’s six of you (in the middle). You’re going to run together,” Harbour said. “And the last 2K, one of you is going to go. Maybe two or three. They’ve just got to do what they’ve done in workouts. We should be ready to go.”
Bradley and sophomore Anna West have crossed the finish line as the top two finishers for the Bears all season, and Harbour said that either is capable of a top-three finish at the Big 12 meet. Defending champion Iowa State will enter the meet as the favorite again, but Harbour thinks the Bears can nip at the Cyclones’ heels along with West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
On the men’s side, Baylor is craving a top-four finish in the team race. The Bears’ best-ever finish since joining the Big 12 was fourth in 2001.
Over the past couple of seasons, Jon Capron’s Bears have experienced what the coach termed a “conformational change of mindset.” Before, they were sort of resigned to doing the chasing.
Now they think they can set the pace.
“I always think back to my freshman year or first few years here when our coach would come in and say, ‘Hey, guys, got seventh today. It’s a good meet,’” said senior Jordan West. “And this year we’re shooting for fourth. And it’s awesome to not only be shooting for fourth, but expecting fourth.”
Two weeks ago at the NCAA Pre-nationals in Louisville, Ky., the Bears finished 26th amidst a star-studded field of teams. Nothing to get too excited about, West said, but the Baylor runners demonstrated some resiliency in the race. Both West and Eric Anderson suffered falls during the race and West at one point lost a shoe. By the time he retrieved it and put it back on, he was in last place, 319th in the field, but rallied to pick off more than a hundred runners and finish 142nd.
“It was one of those things where if we could just put it all together, and that’s what I’ve really been preaching this whole time since Pre-Nats,” Capron said. “Guys, if we just produce to our ability. We don’t even have to over-perform. I always leave room for that. If anybody wants to just run out of their heads, let’s go, feel free. But if everybody runs great, we’re going to do really well.”
The men’s 8,000-meter race will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the women’s 6,000-meter race at 10.