Senior Trio Lead Tech into Mountain Regional Championships|
Caroline Jepleting won the Big 12 Championship with the second fastest time in the meet's history
Nov. 9, 2011
by Meredith Hillgartner
Placing fifth in the women's competition and 10th in the men's meet at the Big 12 Championships, the Texas Tech cross country teams will have to work hard at their next meet if they want to qualify as a team for the NCAA Championships.
Next up for both the Lady Raiders and Red Raiders is the Mountain Regional Championships in Provo, Utah, at the East Bay Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 12. In order to advance as a team, head Coach Jon Murray said the Lady Red Raiders will need to place fourth, a feat he said is possible with a little work.
"I think on paper we may have the top three runners of any team in the country," Murray said. "But it takes five to do well in cross country. So we just have to keep working on that. Our goal is to be in the top three or four in the regional meet. It's possible. We're ranked third right now, so it's within our grasp to be able to do that."
An obstacle the team will have to face at the Mountain Regional Championships is the change in altitude. Competing in Provo, Utah the runners will race at an altitude of 4,549 feet versus the height of Lubbock sitting at 3,256 feet.
At higher altitudes the air becomes thinner and makes it more difficult to get the oxygen runners need, causing their bodies to work harder.
"It's a bit of a challenge for us to increase the altitude, were moving up altitude [to Utah], but we've handled it in the past well handle it again in the future," Murray said.
Another challenge the team will face is the tough competition of fellow runners from rival schools.
"It's a very tough region, very strong in distance running," Murray said. "It always has some of the strongest teams in the nation."
But Tech has some of the strongest women runners in the nation.
Senior Caroline Jepleting finished first in the Big 12 meet, achieving a career best time of 19:30.3 in a 6K event.
Something that helped Jepleting excel at the Big 12 meet Murray said was the flat and fast design of the course, a terrain she has mastered.
"There were two girls in front of her, Rose and a girl from Iowa State, and I could tell both of them were hurting so I just kind of suggested to her or yelled at her `hey you can win this thing'," Murray said.
"It came down to a final sprint and she's a 2:05 half-miler, normally they can sprint pretty well, so she won and it was great. Just kind of a situation where everything was set up for her and it worked out really well."
Tanui placed in the top five in nationals last year and will be a top returner, as well as Biwott who is a two time All-American.
Murray said he has goals for the rest of the team including sophomore Rachel Folan who started well at the Big 12 meet.
"Rachel, our fifth runner, gave a fantastic effort," Murray said. "She just came out a little too fast and died at the end and allowed some people to pass her, which hurt our scores. [We] have to get that fourth and fifth runner up as close as possible."
The top two teams in each of the eight regions will receive an automatic berth to nationals while 13 spots will remain open for at-large berths from teams across the country.
The top four individuals that are not on teams that have already qualified for nations will advance while two at-large individual berths are also left available for the highest placing individuals at the regional meets that are not members of teams that are advancing.
The NCAA Championships are Monday, Nov. 21 at Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.