It’s difficult to tell your athletes not to help a teammate in need. But given what’s at stake, that’s the message Todd Harbour is passing along to his team.
Baylor’s women finished eighth at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships Oct. 31 at Stillwater, Okla., a disappointing result for a team that believed second place was within reach. It wasn’t until much later in the day that Harbour discovered the explanation why several of his runners came in slower than their usual pace.
Turned out that Baylor’s No. 2 runner, junior Peyton Thomas, set a quick pace at the outset and then passed out along the course’s wooded area. Thomas has had a history of such fainting spells since high school, Harbour said. Two of her teammates, Chelsea Orr and Alex Davis, came upon her and stopped to help, awakening Thomas 45 seconds later, and Thomas proceeded to finish 46th overall. But Harbour estimated that the delay cost Baylor about two minutes from its overall team time, or about four spots in the team standings.
Harbour doesn’t blame Orr and Davis for stopping to help. It was a natural, tender-hearted reaction. But as the Bears prepare to run at Friday’s NCAA South Central Regional Championships in College Station, he has instructed them to do what runners do best — just keep going.
“We’d never really talked about that situation, but you’ve got to keep going,” Harbuor said. “Lauren Hagans stopped to look at her watch one year, and it cost us a shot at the regional championship. It’s great that the girls have such respect for their teammate, but it’s kind of like a football game when someone gets hurt in the middle of a play, you’ve got to keep playing. This is live, there are no timeouts.”
Harbour also wants Thomas to set a slower pace at the beginning, because he feels like when she does that, she’s capable of putting together a strong closing kick and running closer to Baylor’s top runner Maggie Montoya.
Despite their underwhelming Big 12 finish, the Bears could challenge for one of the top two spots at regionals and an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. Arkansas owns the No. 1 ranking in the region and the perennial national contender should be tough to chase down again. SMU is ranked No. 2, but Baylor — which fell from No. 2 to No. 6 after the Big 12 meet — defeated the Mustangs handily earlier this season at Wisconsin.
“We’ve got a really good shot,” Harbour said. “I’m not buying our tickets yet, but if we run well, we’ve got a great shot to make it to the NCAA meet. Our region is a little down this year, so we don’t even have to run great, we just have to have a good meet.”
Baylor reached the NCAA meet last year with a second-place regional finish, snapping a five-year national drought for the program. Montoya and Davis both ran to all-region finishes last year.
Baylor’s men aren’t likely to contend for an NCAA berth. The Bears are ranked 11th in the region, and Harbour said a realistic goal would be a top-7 finish.
“It’s a bunch of guys with a great work ethic, that you’d go to battle with any day,” Harbour said. “Matt Galvan is dealing with a stress fracture and he came off the bus on crutches at Big 12 and then went out and ran. I don’t know how he did that. … There’s not a scholarship dollar in the whole group, but they represent Baylor well.”