Boise State’s Bates has sights set on cross country championship

The All-American runner competes Saturday for a national title.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 23, 2013 

— Dartmouth senior Abbey D’Agostino enters Saturday’s NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship as the heavy favorite to win.

Boise State coach Corey Ihmels only sees one runner who can track her down: Broncos junior Emma Bates.

Bates, who won the Pre-National Invitational, Mountain West and West Region meets, will chase the four-time NCAA national champion in track and last year’s cross country runner-up at 11:15 a.m. MT Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

“I don’t know if anybody else is going to have the guts to go with (D’Agostino),” Ihmels said. “And we won’t know if Emma does, either, until the day. But she’s gained a lot of confidence over the year.”

Ihmels, in his first year at Boise State, is uniquely positioned to handicap the race. He coached last year’s national champion — Iowa State’s Betsy Saina. Saina upset D’Agostino by 0.7 seconds.

Bates redshirted in cross country last year and never has gone head-to-head with the Dartmouth star.

“I’ve never been as good as her, until now,” Bates said.

Bates is a rising national star. She was a first-team All-American in the 5,000 (seventh place) and 10,000 (third) meters in the spring.

This is her first trip to nationals — and the first by a Bronco woman since 1999.

Her job is simple but difficult.

“I’ll definitely watch out for (D’Agostino) from the start,” Bates said. “I’m going to definitely wait for her to make the move and move with her as she goes.”

It’s possible Bates will expend so much energy chasing D’Agostino that she doesn’t finish in the top three. That’s OK with Ihmels, who would prefer she go for the title rather than play it safe.

“I told Emma, ‘You’ve got to weather the storm. You’ve got to believe that you can go with her,’ ” Ihmels said. “And then as we’ve seen with Emma all year long, if she can be close at the end, she’s pretty tough to beat.”

Senior Jeff Howard will run for the Boise State men’s team, which fell one spot short of qualifying in the team category at the regional meet. It was the first time all season Howard was the fastest Bronco.

“I thought we were going to get there as a team,” Howard said. “I was luckily our No. 1 that day so I snuck in on my own as an individual, which wasn’t really on my radar. … I told my teammates I’m going to run with them in mind.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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