2004 Cross Country Recap|
Dec. 15, 2004
With high expectations set from last years' noteworthy finish at the Big 12 Championship meet and the NCAA Regional event, the 2004 cross country squads found themselves in the familiar underdog position with no where to go but up.
The teams kicked off the season with strong showings at the Lobo Invitational. The women captured the title as the men ran to a fifth-place finish. Benson Cheserek and Irene Kimaiyo were the top Tech finishers. Kimaiyo placed first overall with a time of 22:01 while fellow Kenyan, Cheserek, ran a 25:35, good for a fifth-place finish.
After the women's performance at the Lobo Invite, the squad's national ranking debuted at a season and program high of 24th.
Next up for the Red Raiders was the Roy Griak Invite, held at the campus of the University of Minnesota. The men, who finished 19th, improved six spots from last year's 25th-place finish. The women's squad also showed improvement as they finished in a solid eighth place. Running in his first race as a Red Raider, Kenyan Haron Lagat placed first for the men's squad with a time of 24:52 and an 18th-place finish. Kimaiyo was the top female runner at the Griak Invite. Kimaiyo placed 20th overall with her time of 21:50.
The men's squad was ranked 14th in the Mountain region after their performance at the Roy Griak.
The Red Raiders continued their winning pace as the women placed first and the men placed eighth at the 68th running of the Cowboy Jamboree on the campus of Oklahoma State. The women took the title at the Jamboree for the third consecutive year. The Kenyans would repeat as top finishers. Lagat placed third overall with a time of 24:19 and Kimaiyo ran a 17:46 and finished eighth overall.
Lagat was named Big 12 Runner of the Week for his finish in Stillwater.
"Expectations were high for the women's team after last years performance," said head coach Burke Binning. "They were exceeding expectations far and away early on in the season. The first three meets were fantastic."
Continuing competition, the Red Raiders traveled to Terre Haute, Indiana and the campus of Indiana State for Pre-Nationals, thought by most to be a preview of the National meet. Lagat, once again, was the top male finisher with a 23rd-place finish and a time of 24:30.7. Bridget Tidwell, Tech's top harrier from the 2002 season, was the top female runner for the first time during the 2004 season. She placed 70th with her time of 21:55.4.
The men crept up the regional ranking after their trip to Terre Haute and finished the rest of their season ranked 13th in the Mountain Region.
The first four meets were all in preparation for the Big 12 Conference meet. Throughout the season Texas Tech cross country placed ahead of Texas A&M at the Lobo Invite, Nebraska and Kansas at the Griak Invite and Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma State at the Cowboy Jamboree. Solid performances in Topeka, Kansas earned the men's and women's squads 10th- and sixth-place finishes, respectively. Bridget Tidwell was the top female finisher in 17th place, two spots away from garnering all-conference honors. Lagat placed 12th and was the lone Red Raider to earn an all-conference award. With their sixth- and 10th-place finishes, Texas Tech placed ahead of Oklahoma, Kansas State, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Texas. Sights were now set on Regionals in Fort Collins and earning that elusive trip back to Terre Haute for Nationals.
"Injuries occurred and they took the team down somewhat and lowered team morale slightly. They recovered nicely and came back and performed very well at the conference meet. I was very pleased with their performance. The women finished just ten points out of fifth place."
Adjusting to the altitude was the least of Tech's worries in Fort Collins. The Mountain Region consists of the top cross country teams in intercollegiate athletics. Colorado, an eight-time Big 12 conference champion, was the force to be reckoned with that day. Also giving Tech a run for their money would be Colorado State and BYU. Stefanie Calhoun, for the first time of the 2004 season, led the women's squad to a 10th-place finish with her individual placing of 27th and a time of 21:54. Calhoun narrowly missed a chance to run at Nationals. For the men, Lagat turned in a time of 30:59.7 and an individual placing of 33rd. The men's team placed 13th.
The 2004 season raised the high bar that was set last season and aged a group of runners for the better. The squads will have some damage come their way with the loss of dedicated seniors but what these seniors have left behind for these young teams will not soon be forgotten. "The adversity the team went through to finish in the way that they did will follow them into track season and they can build on that."