TU cross country aims for Midwest Regional win
BY JOSH HALEY World Correspondent
Friday, November 09, 2012
11/09/12 at 6:00 AM
The University of Tulsa men's cross country team can trace its success to 2005. That's when TU not only changed conferences, but also changed the way things were done.
Head coach Steve Gulley, aided by graduate assistant Andrew Maloney, started to look for a different kind of runner.
"Athletes change over time, and we started recruiting a different style," Gulley said. "We look for kids that want to come into this program and do things the way we do it and run like we run."
Now in his 12th year at the helm of TU's men's and women's cross country programs, Gulley has brought home three consecutive men's conference championships and four overall.
"We've worked hard to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the conference," Gulley said. "There is a lot of credibility that comes with being the Conference USA champion."
The University of Texas-El Paso won the men's championship from 2005 to 2007 while Tulsa continued to get stronger, finishing second in 2006 and 2007 before narrowly dethroning the Miners by three points in 2008 to win their first Conference USA title.
UTEP edged Tulsa by one point in 2009, but the Golden Hurricane has not looked back since, including a convincing 31-point victory this year thanks to six runners finishing in the top 10.
"It's unbelievable," Gulley said. "I think that's why we have had such a good year, because we're not putting as much pressure on our top three runners."
Only the top five finishers from each team in a race score team points, but should someone have an off day, Tulsa has reinforcements.
"Our team success is built on our fourth and fifth runners," said Gulley.
Chris O'Hare (2), Andy Heyes (3), Paulo Pinheiro (4), Dennis Hodapp (7), Marc Scott (9) and Tim Rackers (10) were the Tulsa runners who registered top-10 finishes at the conference championship.
"We came out with a plan, and that was to let UTEP's lead runner break away," said Gulley. "(Tulsa's) Chris O'Hare, who is a national track champion in the one mile, really put the team ahead of himself because he is not used to not being first, yet he made the sacrifice."
Getting to the 31-team NCAA championship is reliant on many factors, but Tulsa's hope is for the men and women to reach the final stage and then rely on hard work to pay off.
"It's a long season and everyone has bumps and bruises, but if you can just get there (NCAA championship), anything can happen," Gulley said.
Led by senior Sarah Macpherson, the Tulsa women finished second in the conference championship and remain confident in their ability to make the next level.
"If we go out and do what we're capable of doing, we will already have an advantage because many teams can't handle the pressure of these big races," Gulley said. "No one has the formula of guaranteeing a team is ready to run (in a championship setting)."
The TU women's program as a whole has proved it is solid in big races, winning the conference championship in 2010 and finishing no worse than fourth since joining the conference in 2005.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts and Tulsa will compete in the Midwest Regional in Springfield, Mo., on Friday, the final step before the NCAA championships in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 17.
After leading the team in every race this season, sophomore Samantha Watson will represent ORU at the NCAA Midwest Regional hosted by Missouri State on Friday. Watson, who earned All-Southland honors for finishing ninth at the conference championships, finished 125th overall in 23:24.66 at last year's Midwest Regional.
College Cross Country up next