Tricia Terry (left) and Ashley Eckhoff
Oct. 25, 2012
FORT WORTH - TCU's journey in the Big 12 opens its next chapter Saturday when the Horned Frogs' cross country team becomes the first TCU athletics team to compete at a Big 12 Championships. The competition, hosted by Texas at the Jimmy Clay Golf Course in Austin, The women's 6K event begins at 10 a.m. with the men's 8K event starting at 11 a.m.
"I think everyone is really excited, it is something we have been talking about all year," head cross country coach Liz Wort said. "When we first found out we were just excited not to have to run at altitude anymore. Now everyone is looking forward to the competition in general, and the bigger and deeper conference."
With TCU being near many fellow Big 12 schools, they will be familiar with the competition on Saturday. The Horned Frogs men and women have competed against Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at various meets in 2012.
"There are a lot of teams that we see frequently," Wort noted. "That is kind of fun for us. We have a better sense of our competition going into the meet."
The teams they will be competing against will not make TCU's debut Big 12 Championships easy. The conference features some of the best teams across the country. Three women's squads are ranked in the United State Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) coaches poll, including defending Big 12 champion Iowa State at No. 2. Seven Big 12 women's squads are ranked in the regional polls, including TCU at No. 8 in the South Central Region.
"I am excited just to see what we will do," Wort stated. "There are a couple of teams who are really strong in Iowa State and Texas. Oklahoma State looks good, they are in good shape and really deep this year. After that, there is room to move up or down. You never know how it is going to go, which is why we run. You can analyze it on paper as much as you want, but you never know what will happen on race day."
The competition on the men's side will also be a challenge, with five men's teams ranked in the USTFCCCA top-30, three of those in the top-10, headlined by No. 1 Oklahoma State.
Wort is confident that the TCU women will be able to make its way up the standings. The Horned Frogs women are led by senior Agnes Kemboi, a two-time Big 12 Runner of the Week winner during the 2012 season. Kemboi won two events, the Ken Garland Invitational at North Texas and the Notre Dame Invitational gold division, and added a second place effort at the Bear Twilight Invitational at Baylor.
"If we put the pieces together, we can have a strong first showing on the women's side," Wort noted. "On any given day anything can happen, and I will not limit this team at all. I want them to go out there and have fun and enjoy the expectations."
The Horned Frogs' other senior women, Katie Dalton and Tricia Terry, are peaking at the right time.
"We definitely had some strong individual performances at Arkansas," Wort noted. "Tricia had her best race of the season. Katie Dalton also had her best cross country race of her entire career."
People are going to be paying attention to TCU and West Virginia because it is their first time at the meet. We view that as a positive to be in that unique position."
"This is a really big deal to say no matter how we do, we are the first TCU team to run at the Big 12 Championships. That is exciting, but you still want to make a good first impression."
The TCU women will have Dalton, Kemboi and Terry and freshmen Ashley Eckhoff, Maggie Escobar, Genna McCarthy and Laura Orlie compete. The TCU men's squad will consist of senior Dave Emerson, junior Jake Rossmango and sophomores Kevin Case, Taylor Moult, Preston Newsome and Mason Richards.
"Our team has seen people have good days throughout the season," Wort concluded. "Even in practice, our team has seen people have good workout days. I think we see the pieces are there and I think that has people excited to see if we can put it all together for one day."