Friday, August 9, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #14- Oklahoma State

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Oklahoma State
Head Coach: Dave Smith (5th Season)
2012 National Finish- 26th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Monika Juodeskaite (Jr., 9:10 Open 3k, 16:17 5k, 41st NCAA XC '12)
  • Natalja Piliusina (Sr., 2:02.16 800m, 4:09.51 1500m, NCAA 1500m Champ '12)
  • Caileigh Glenn (Sr., 4:22 1500m, West Regional Track Qualifier 1500m '12
  • Victoria Hanna (Jr., 9:43 Open 3k, 16:53 5k)
  • Kate Kujawa (Sr., 9:48 Open 3k, 10:15 3k Steeple, NCAA Outdoor Qualifier 3k Steeple '12)

Impact Recruits/Transfers 
  • Samantha Nightingale (Redshirt Fr, 2-Time MO State Champ, 4:56 1600m, 10:33 3200m)

Season Preview

In order to have a top-15 finish at any NCAA meet there is some criteria that needs to be met. First, you need to have a couple of good low-sticks, which normally equates to two All-American performing athletes. Next, a good group of experienced athletes that provide depth and maturity. Finally, a coach that has been there and done that. 

Oklahoma State in 2013 meets all of that criteria. Monika Juodeskaite and Natalja Piliusina are a very strong 1-2 for the Cowgirls. The 'Pokes also bring back six of their top seven and also have a few more solid athletes that did not compete much for them last season that should factor in during this upcoming season. Dave Smith is obviously a very proven coach with the men and finally has a good group of talented girls that will be able to make a splash at the Big Dance.

Monika Juodeskaite is the real deal. Her open 3k PR is very very good (9:10) and was one spot away last year of being All-American. If she progresses like she should she will be looking at a top-30 finish and very crucial low-stick points. 

Natalja Piliusina is the most talented athlete on this team. She is now the reigning the 1500m Champion outdoors from 2013. Anyone would be hard pressed to find someone with better leg speed in any field that Piliusina is racing in, in 2013. This kind of athletic ability, and coming off the great season she had in track, should translate to an All-American year for Natalja as well. If that is the case, these two legitimate front-runners for Oklahoma State will be huge for their overall team finish at Nats. 

The rest of the four women remaining that return from last seasons remotely disappointing NCAA finish (26th) are all good, consistent and stable pack runners that will be battling for the 3-7 spots the entire season. This group includes Caileigh Glenn (probably the next best girl on the squad) Victoria Hanna, Kate Kujawa and Taylor Light. With the experience that these girls have at a high level, hopefully they put the summer miles in necessary to come ready to rock and roll for 2013. These athletes' 2013 seasons will make or break the year for Oklahoma State. If they do improve like they should and step-up this is a top-15 team. If not things could get ugly pretty fast. 

The good news is that there a few other women that could also move their way up that have not been mentioned yet. Adela Hofmannova, Natalie Baker and Samantha Nightingale are all wildcards for the Cowgirls. Baker is a pure cross country runner and therefore she could be someone that makes the Okey State top five by the end of the season. Hofmannova is talented and with some good upside and Nightingale is an experienced two-time high school state xc champ. 

There certainly are a lot of question marks for this Oklahoma State squad and how good they really could be. No doubt they will have a very good 1-2 punch up front, if the rest of the team can rise to the occasion, these girls will be able to get through the Midwest Regional and prove themselves at Terre Haute. 

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