COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Wichita State cross country team will race at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships Friday, Nov. 11 at the Gans Creek Cross Country Course.
The women’s 6K is set for 11 a.m. with the men’s 10K to follow at noon. Both races will be live streamed on YouTube.
The Shocker men are coming off a second-place conference team finish behind a Tulsa team that moved up to No. 6 in the USTFCCCA National Coaches Poll, where four Wichita State men earned all-conference honors by finishing in the top 15 to help the team.
Two of the top-10 nationally-ranked teams reside in the Midwest Region, making No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 6 Tulsa the favorites to advance to the NCAA Championships.
The Shockers enter the regional meet ranked eighth in the region despite having beaten three of teams slated ahead of them head-to-head, including South Dakota State at the Roy Griak Invitational and Bradley and Drake at the Bradley Pink Classic.
“It is motivational for us to know that we have beaten a number of the teams ranked ahead of us,” head coach Kirk Hunter said. “We haven’t raced Iowa State, so head-to-head we don’t know as much about them as we do the other teams, but knowing that we have beaten other teams does help us feel decent about ourselves, that we’re a good team and that we can get in there and maybe have a shot at it.”
With the top two teams in the region being hard to beat out for the automatic qualifying spots, the Shockers will need a third-place team finish to give them the best shot at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.
“We need to race, as a team, closer to the way we did at Bradley to have a chance, and the guys are aware of that,” Hunter said. “But it’s good that we’ve had a chance to mix it up with some of these teams…so we’re at least going to know who we can run with which is going to help us through that race.”
At the regional meet, it will be important to have most of the men up closer to the front because the point totals get larger for every second added to their times in the middle of the pack.
This will be the first 10K of the season for all the teams, which can give an advantage to runners that lean towards longer distances.
“I definitely believe it can benefit us because the guys that we have on the team gravitate towards the 10K,” Hunter said. “We’ve been training for that more than we have an 8K, but who’s to say it’s not going to benefit the other teams, too? I like that we’re excited about racing this distance, and I do believe it’s something that could help us. We’ve been good at closing over the last 2K, so that, we hope, will benefit us to have that extra 2K to race this week.”
The Shocker men’s goal is to qualify to nationals, but they will also be looking to put themselves in position to send individuals to the championship if that goal is not reached. Clayton Duchatschek, Adrian Diaz-Lopez and Ben Flowers, especially, will be looking to finish in the top 25 to give themselves a shot at earning a trip to Stillwater, Okla on Nov. 19.
“The guys need to shoot for that individual spot, every one of them,” Hunter said. “That’s going to help our team. We want the team to go. It’s the number one thing every guy wants, but they also want to make it as an individual and to do that is very difficult.”
The Shocker women, on the other hand, are not in position to send a team to the NCAA Championships, but their top three runners will seek All-Region honors by aiming for a top-25 finish. Abeba Sullivan, Sarah Bertry and Miranda Dick have been running strong, with Sullivan and Bertry being named all-conference with their top-15 performances at the American Athletic Conference Championship.
“Abeba is looking to try to get in that top 25, and I wouldn’t count out Sarah or Miranda,” Hunter said. “They’re running well right now, and they could make a big jump this week and maybe take a shot at getting in that top 25 themselves.”
The last time the Shockers sent a team to the NCAA Championships was 1975 where the Shocker men placed 26th, led by Bob Christensen with his 76th-place finish. That year, the Shockers placed four athletes on the all-conference list, a feat that wasn’t accomplished again until 2021 and matched two weeks ago in Tulsa, Okla.
Live results for the race can be followed at this link.
HOW TO ADVANCE TO THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS:
A team’s advancement to the national championship is dependent on their performance at the regional championships. Once the regionals have concluded, the top two teams in each regional — there are nine in total — automatically qualify for the championships, which equates to 18 automatic qualifiers. The NCAA DI Cross Country Subcommittee will then choose 13 at-large teams to fill out the 31-team field.
At-large team selections are based firstly on their performance at regionals, making the third- and fourth-place teams the most likely candidates.
Regular and postseason (up until the championships) results combine to create a detailed resume of a team’s performance throughout the season, and that resume is also looked over by the subcommittee to determine at-large championship selections. The amount of regular season points and specifically the wins against teams that have already qualified or been selected to the national championships really matter here.
From the regional, the first four individual finishers who do not belong to an automatic qualifier or an at-large team automatically advance to the championships. All four finishers have to finish in the top 25 within their region. Altogether, 36 individuals automatically qualify and two are chosen at-large, making 38 the grand total. The two at-large selections are the highest placing individuals at a regional that were not automatic qualifiers.