Cross Country NCAA

Perez Rotich finishes 65th overall at the NCAA Cross-Country Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 22, 2014. 

Once either Perez Rotich or Erin Hooker has been spotted on the cross-country course, it's not difficult to find the other. 

The two runners finished back to back Saturday at the Big 12 Championship in Stillwater, Okla., for the third time in seven meets they've competed together, with Rotich finishing first and Hooker second. 

But the two performances weren't enough to add a fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship for Iowa State.

"In defeat there is still victory," ISU women's cross-country coach Andrea Grove-McDonough tweeted in reference to the two runners' performances. 

The Cyclones finished second in the meet behind Oklahoma State with 52 points, and despite losing her first conference championship in three years as the coach, Grove-McDonough still provided a positive message: 

"I'm proud of this entire team. We did everything we could do [and] we took some risks. In the end just too many hurdles to overcome this season. But fight we did. We'll be back. Champions never quit. ... They just regroup."

Injuries and setbacks to three of the ISU women's cross-country team's top runners have pushed Rotich and Hooker into lead roles in 2015, and both have performed well under the pressure. 

Crystal Nelson was redshirted earlier this year because of a heart condition, Bethanie Brown has yet to compete for Iowa State this season, and freshman Becky Straw was unable to compete Saturday after suffering an injury two weeks ago.  

But there's is still room for optimism. Hooker and Rotich have displayed great amounts of improvement this year for Iowa State, and that was no more evident than during Saturday's Big 12 Championship. 

Rotich finished 79th at last year's Wisconsin adidas Invitational and 13th at the 2014 Big 12 Championship. She finished 23rd and first in those two meets this year, respectively. 

Hooker, on the other hand, placed 103rd at last year's Wisconsin adidas Invitational and ninth at the 2014 Big 12 Championship. She finished 24th and second at those two meets this year, respectively.

“I tend to hunch up and get really tense during races,” Hooker said after last year's performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. “[It’s important] to keep breathing and staying in good form for the bigger competition.”

This year, the redshirt sophomore is running much more loose and with more confidence. 

"I think there was some added pressure going into this season, but now that we've started I think we know where we can finish and where we can place," Hooker said. "We don't know, but we have an idea. We're not feeling the pressure. We're just having fun and seeing where we can end up at nationals." 

The next meet for the Cyclones is the NCAA Midwest Regional, which will take place Nov. 13 in Lawrence, Kan. Rotich and Hooker finished 13th and 14th, respectively, at last year's meet, helping Iowa State win its fifth consecutive regional championship. The duo will be relied on heavily again this year to make it six straight. 

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