NCAA race next step for Bales

Monday, November 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:54 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Even after winning the NCAA Midwest Regional women’s cross country meet, Missouri sophomore Amanda Bales said she isn’t depending on a victory in her next race.

“I don’t ever go into a race expecting to do well,” Bales said, “but I like to finish it knowing that I left everything out there on the course.”

Bales will try for another top performance today in the NCAA Championship. Coach Jared Wilmes said he thinks she can be competitive in the national field.

“Our goal is for her to be in the top 30, which is All-American, and that’s very realistic,” Wilmes said.

The No. 20 Tigers finished second to Nebraska at the regional meet Nov. 15,earning their second consecutive national appearance. Bales won in 21 minutes, 18 seconds. Junior Serena Ramsey placed fourth in 21:28.

This will be the Tigers’ eighth national appearance in nine years.

Last year, the Tigers finished 16th at the nationals. Bales finished 38th, and Valerie Lauver was 39th. Brigham Young is the defending champion. North Carolina senior Shalene Flanagan returns as the defending individual champion. She won the 6,000-meter race in 19:36.0.

Wilmes said the team is optimistic Bales, Ramsey and sophomore Valerie Lauver, who finished seventh at the regional, will run well.

“You just go out, put yourself in a strong position and then see where you are at the end of the race,” Wilmes said.

Northern Iowa will host the race at the Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course, where the Tigers raced in the Pre-Nationals meet earlier this season.

“It’s always a good feeling to go into it knowing the spots to look out for and where to push at,” Bales said. “It’s really nice to have already seen the course before.”

Wilmes said though it is reassuring to be familiar with the course, most of the teams at the meet have also seen it. He said a bigger advantage for the Tigers will be their preparation in cold weather. Forecasts predict temperatures in the mid-20s, strong winds, and a 40 percent chance of snow.

“There’s a lot of teams from the South and the coast, and they’re a little intimidated by it,” Wilmes said. “But we’re more used to that kind of weather, so that helps.”

Of the 31 teams competing, top contenders include Brigham Young, Stanford, North Carolina State and Arizona State. Brigham Young will be trying for its third consecutive team title. Last year, Stanford’s Alicia Craig and Lauren Fleshman were fourth and fifth at the championship. At the Pre-Nationals meet Oct. 22, Craig and teammate Sara Bei finished first and second to help Stanford beat runner-up North Carolina State. Sophomore Amy Hastings will lead a young Arizona State team, which earned an at-large bid.

“In a race this big, it’s hard to look at a specific team,” Wilmes said. “You can’t even look at where you’re at against a specific team until at least three fourths of the way through the race anyway.”

The race will be televised on Fox Sports Net at 2 p.m. on Dec. 3.

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