The 2019 cross country season is winding down to its home stretch, and the Iowa State Cyclones are coming along for the wild ride.
The chaotic sprint to qualify for nationals took place one week ago. Teams from all over the country competed in nine different regional meets to decide the 31 squads who would run at the prestigious Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana.
For the Iowa State cross country program, it was another season of success, as athletes on the men's and women's side were able to qualify. The Cyclones competed in the Midwest Regional last Friday, and entered the meet as defending team champions for both disciplines.
On the women's side, it was Cailie Logue leading the Cyclones throughout the 6K race course. The junior runner has been Iowa State's anchor for the majority of the season, placing in the top-25 of both the Joe Piane Notre Dame and Wisconsin Nuttycombe invitationals. Logue also enters this race having retained her Big 12 conference title two weeks prior.
Over the course of the regional championship race, Logue showed her stamina and kept with the lead pack through the halfway mark. Logue made her move nearing the 5K mark, surging ahead of Northern Illinois junior Ashley Tutt, and never looked back. The Erie, Kansas, native crossed the line eight seconds ahead of second-place runner Taylor Somers of Oklahoma State, finishing with a time of 20:20.6.
Despite Logue's strong performance, however, the Cyclones could not garner enough points to qualify as a team. The Cyclones amassed a total of 192 points and finished sixth out of 33 teams. The Cyclone women ended their season strong, as all five of their scoring runners finished in the top-100. Senior Abby Caldwell also ended her cross country career with an All-Regional performance, placing 15th.
Looking ahead, Logue is Iowa State's sole representative on the women's side and is going to be facing some stiff competition. The field for the women's 6K race includes some of the best running talent in the nation, highlighted by the two favorites of Alicia Monson of Wisconsin and Weini Kelati of New Mexico. Both runners won their regional races and also finished in the top-5 of last year's national championships.
Over on the men's side, coach Martin Smith's squad continued its season on grass in strong fashion, finishing second in the 10K race. The Cyclone men earned an automatic spot and qualified for their fourth consecutive national championships.
Senior All-American Edwin Kurgat led the way for the Cyclones, as he successfully retained his Midwest Regional crown. The Eldoret, Kenya, native stuck with the lead pack from the start of the race, and with 1K left in the race took charge, surging ahead of the field. He held off Missouri senior Thomas George by four seconds to finish in a time of 30:38.3.
Behind Kurgat, the Cyclone squad finished strong as well, with the rest of their four scoring runners all placing within the top-25, earning All-Regional honors. Fellow senior David Too was the next Cyclone to cross the line, finishing with a time of 31:07.8, followed by sophomore Chad Johnson and juniors Milo Greder and Thomas Pollard. Despite this performance, however, the Cyclones ultimately were unsuccessful in retaining their team title, finishing second to Tulsa by 17 points.
Kurgat is looking to become the first Cyclone runner since fellow Kenyan Jonah Koech back in 1990 to win the individual title at the national championships. He has already completed one of the most decorated careers in Cyclone history, having already garnered a bronze medal at nationals, and having twice won the Big 12 and Midwest Regional titles.
Kurgat's greatest competition this time around will be Alabama seniors Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen. Last year, he finished in third in a tough battle behind Stanford Cardinal Grant Fisher and Wisconsin Badger Morgan Mcdonald.
The Cyclone squad as a team will also be going against the nation's best running talent, as all of the top-30 teams will be represented in Terre Haute. Iowa State enters the meet ranked No. 7, and will need to get as many runners in the top-50 to garner enough points in the field.
The biggest teams to watch out for are Pac-12 power Colorado and Northern Arizona, who enters the race as the three-time defending national champion. The Cyclones have not won the title — never mind being on the podium — since 1994.
The 2019 NCAA Cross Country National Championships will be Saturday. The women's 6K race will be first in Terre Haute, with the gun set to go off at 10:15 a.m., and the men's 10K championship to follow at 11:15 a.m. All of the action will be live on Flo Track with a paid subscription.