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Runners head to nationals

Nov. 17, 2006

By ALLIE COOK
Reporter

The NCAA Championships are the most important part of the season, regardless of sport.

The women's cross country team qualified Saturday for the fourth year in a row.

"All the other races are just warm-up for the national meet," said Plano junior Lyndsy Bedell. "It's a race of its own. We're just ready to run well as a team and see what happens."

The team earned an automatic berth into the championships by finishing second in the NCAA South Central Regional on Saturday. The championship race will be held Monday in Terre Haut, Ind.

With two of their top runners unable to compete this season due to injury or sickness, the team had to "overcome some adversity," head Coach Todd Harbour said.

But the team has lived up to the challenge and proved its competence in the sport once again.

"It's been one of those years where the girls have had to learn what the sport really teaches you, like perseverance," Harbour said. "They never slowed down: When one girl goes out, another one steps up to take their place."

Bedell said she saw the two runners' eliminations as a challenge for the rest of the team.

"We knew we'd have to work that much harder to make it back to nationals," Bedell said.

Harbour and the women's team were also disappointed with their initial No. 13 ranking.

"We started the season with high expectations. We thought the ranking was low," Harbour said.

"It was a good occasion (for the women) to feel sorry for themselves, but they never did."

Even now, Harbour said he believes the team can deliver more than what's expected of it. He said he's excited to have the opportunity to prove the team is under-ranked on the national level.

"We're better than that," Harbour said. "Now we've got to go up there and prove it."

The team showed potential beyond its ranking at the Regional Championships by placing second behind No. 2 University of Arkansas.

Harbour said the team's hard work, excellent practices and the fact that the team is taking more seniors than ever before will aid them in next week's race.

He also expressed pride in the women for having made it into one of the toughest NCAA Championships to qualify for. While most sports take the top 64 teams, cross country only takes 31.

El Paso senior Monique Ortega said the team's goal is to top their performance last year by ranking above 15th place.

"As a senior, I'm excited to run in the Nationals again," Ortega said.

"It's my last chance to run for Baylor."