BOISE — Dartmouth senior Abbey DAgostino enters Saturdays NCAA Womens 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 years cross country runner-up at 11:15 a.m. MT Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
I dont know if anybody else is going to have the guts to go with (DAgostino), Ihmels said. And we wont know if Emma does, either, until the day. But shes 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 years national champion Iowa States Betsy Saina. Saina upset DAgostino by 0.7 seconds.
Bates redshirted in cross country last year and never has gone head-to-head with the Dartmouth star.
Ive 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.
Ill definitely watch out for (DAgostino) from the start, Bates said. Im going to definitely wait for her to make the move and move with her as she goes.
Its possible Bates will expend so much energy chasing DAgostino that she doesnt finish in the top three. Thats OK with Ihmels, who would prefer she go for the title rather than play it safe.
I told Emma, Youve got to weather the storm. Youve got to believe that you can go with her, Ihmels said. And then as weve seen with Emma all year long, if she can be close at the end, shes pretty tough to beat.
Senior Jeff Howard will run for the Boise State mens 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 wasnt really on my radar. I told my teammates Im going to run with them in mind.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat