Kansas Eager to Host Big 12 Championships
Oct. 24, 2006
LAWRENCE, Kan. -
The University of Kansas cross country teams are in full gear as they prepare to host the Big 12 Cross Country Championships on Friday at Rim Rock Farm. The Jayhawk men look to improve on their third-place finish one year ago behind back-to-back individual Big 12 champion, senior Benson Chesang, while the women's squad hopes to continue its marked improvement that has highlighted the season thus far.
The men's team, which currently sits at No. 19 in the USTFCCCA's National Poll, have eagerly anticipated Oct. 27 as a date to showcase not only their unique course, but also a team capable of challenging perennial conference power Colorado for the perch of the league. Chesang, who was the first Jayhawk to win the league crown since John Lawson in 1965 and the first KU runner to repeat as conference champion since Al Frame in 1954-55, is coming off a 30th-place finish at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.
"We all expect that we are going to win this Friday as a team," Chesang said. "We really want to do it, but I do not know what is going to happen before Friday. It is just like any other sport, we do not know what is going to happen."
Joining Chesang in the Jayhawks' assault are a pair of highly-talented juniors, Paul Hefferon and Colby Wissel. Both earned All-Big 12 status at last year's conference championship, where Wissel finished 10th and Hefferon placed 13th. This season, the duo has continued their maturation and appear primed to climb higher at the conference championships. Hefferon won the season-opening Bob Timmons Invitational and also was Kansas' top finisher at NCAA Pre-Nationals, running an 8k-best time of 23:50.0. Wissel, who was named Big 12 Runner of the Week on Sept. 13, won the Kansas State Wildcat Invitational, placed 10th at the Roy Griak Invitational and has been among Kansas' top-two finishers in every race this season.
Rounding out the men's squad are a trio of seniors looking to make their final run at Rim Rock Farm a memorable experience. Matt French, Tyler Kelly and Erik Sloan have all placed among the Kansas' top-five runners throughout season. French placed fifth on the team at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, placing 121st in a time of 25:00.4. Kelly, a two-time member of the Academic All-Big 12 First Team, recorded a 10th-place finish at the Bob Timmons Invitational, while Sloan earned fourth at the same event. Both Kelly and Sloan earned all-region honors last season, placing 18th and 22nd respectively. Not to be overlooked, junior Patrick McGowan has steadily improved throughout the season and may also crack the scoring list.
"You have to go in with the idea that you want to win. That's our goal," head Coach Stanley Redwine said. "We are going to try and prepare to win the meet on both sides. The reality is that we have to prepare our athletes to compete to the best of their potential."
For the women, the Big 12 Championships represent a venue to showcase a program that has equaled or improved upon its results at every meet thus far in the season. The team is coming off a 23rd-place performance at the Roy Griak Invitational and a second-place result in the open division at the NCAA Pre-Nationals. Those performances came on the heels of two earlier season wins, as the teams captured both the Bob Timmons Invitational and the Kansas State Wildcat Invitational.
Junior Lisa Morrisey stands out as the women's top runner, as she been among the Jayhawks top-three finishers at every meet this season and was the team's top finisher at both the Roy Griak Invitational and the NCAA Pre-Nationals. Juniors Alicia McGregor and Melissa O'Rourke closely follow Morrisey in building a solid top three. O'Rourke placed seventh at the Bob Timmons Invitational, while McGregor earned a third-place finish at the Kansas State Wildcat Invitational.
The team has also witnessed the budding development of several freshmen. Kellie Schneider and Lauren Bonds both look primed to use the Big 12 Championships as a springboard toward conference recognition. Schneider, from Kenosha, Wis., has placed among the top-six KU runners in every event in which she has competed at this season. Bonds, from Hutchinson, Kan., earned a seventh-place finish at the Bob Timmons Invitational.
"We want to place a lot higher in conference than we have in the past," Morrisey added. "We could definitely be in the top seven or the top half. That's my goal and I think that's everyone's goal for the team too. Hopefully we all run well."
The Big 12 Cross Country Championships marks the first time that Kansas has hosted a Big 12 Championship event in Lawrence. Colorado has dominated the event since the Big 12's inception, winning all ten men's titles and nine women's titles. Only Kansas State's women's team in 1997 has been able to stifle the Buffaloes' stampede.
"We believe Rim Rock Farm is the premier cross country site in the nation," Athletics Director Lew Perkins said. "We're looking forward to showing it off to the rest of the conference. This experience will be a highlight of these student-athletes' careers."
The races are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with the women's 6k race. The men's 8k event will follow at 11 a.m. Stay tuned to kuathletics.com for all the results.
Click here for a map with driving directions to Rim Rock Farm.