By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — What makes a dynasty?
For the large part, championships.
Oklahoma State men’s cross country is looking to solidify its program as a living dynasty when the Cowboys take to the NCAA Cross Country Championships Saturday morning. A win for the reigning Division I champions would give Oklahoma State its fourth national title in five years.
“It would just be another step towards our goal, we want to be the best cross country program in the history of the NCAA,” OSU cross country coach Dave Smith said. “That’s our goal. That’s what we want to do. We’re getting closer, we’re taking steps every year and I think being in the conversation for another national championship adds to that - winning one would add a feather in the cap towards that end.”
After a year in Memphis, the NCAA Championship meet returns to its longtime home of Terre Haute, Ind., where the Cowboys won their first two national titles in the latest run — something Smith hopes to use to his team’s advantage.
“I like the course and we know how to run it. It has tradition and history, too. It’s great for coaches and spectators, because you can see most of the race,” Smith said. “We can also look back at past years we’ve been successful there and compare splits. We know where we want people to go, based on the past.”
Winning No. 4 will be no easy task, however. The Cowboys will be running their second race in eight days — after winning the regional race last Friday in Ames, Iowa.
Smith elected to go with his top runners for the regional race — after a scare in 2012 in which OSU nearly missed out on the national championship race while resting several of its key components. According to All-American senior Tom Farrell, the move was beneficial, as the top runners were not mandated to pick up the pace of the runners back in the pack.
“The guys who ran were very controlled - it wasn’t 100 percent effort,” Farrell said. “... It took the pressure off of us and we didn’t have push really hard. It was nice getting to have some fun the last four to five minutes of a cross country race and enjoying what’s going on and not stressing to pass people.”
Despite being the reigning champions and winners of three of the last four, the national rankings actually consider the Cowboys as underdogs heading into the race. OSU is actually the second-ranked team in the country and using that fact as added motivation.
“It is slightly. I guess it started at pre-nationals when we didn’t start a full team, but we did it deliberately to give guys experience and people knocked us down for that,” Farrell said. “I think the three years we’ve won we’ve been ranked second, second and then first. So it’s nothing that necessarily bothers us, because we know how strong we are.”
In fact, the Cowboys are actually ranked behind a Northern Arizona team that OSU beat head-to-head at the Cowboy Jamboree in September. Fortunately for Oklahoma State, cross country is one of those college sports that rankings don’t matter going into the postseason.
“We don’t run on paper, we run on grass,” Farrell said.
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor of the Stillwater NewsPress