Jayhawks Prepare for Big 12 Championships
Oct. 29, 2009
LAWRENCE, Kan. -
After four regular-season meets and weeks of practice, Kansas cross country enters the heat of battle at the 2009 Big 12 Championships in Columbia, Mo. The Jayhawks will compete in their first postseason action Saturday on the A.L. Gustin Golf Course. The men's 8K race kicks off at 10 a.m. CDT, followed by women's 6K at 11 a.m. CDT.
"It is going to be a real fight," said Assistant Coach Michael Whittlesey. "There are a lot of teams that are right in the mix. If we have just an average race, we could finish as low as eighth, but if we race to the best of our ability, we should be able to place in the top four or five. It is really a matter of holding our own and responding well to the competition."
Kansas will face several of the nation's top teams at this year's league championship. On the women's side, Colorado, Texas Tech and Iowa State are ranked third, 14th and 15th, respectively, while the men will face Oklahoma State, Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa State, all of whom are among the top 25 in the nation.
The KU women have high expectations for this meet, especially with senior standout Lauren Bonds leading the pack. Bonds has placed in the top 20 in each of her three meets this season, which includes two runner-up finishes at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge and OSU Cowboy Jamboree. Although she will be pitted against some of the best runners in the country, Bonds has the potential to place in the top five overall, according to her coaches.
"Finishing top five is absolutely a realistic goal for Lauren," said Whittlesey. "I have talked about this with her and she understands how wide open the field is at this point. There are may be only two to three girls who she might not be able to stick with, but she will do everything she can to stay with the top five to six runners throughout the race this weekend."
The Jayhawks No. 2 - No. 4 runners have also been a significant force this season. Junior Amanda Miller has finished behind Bonds in each of her three meets, while sophomores Rebeka Stowe and Kara Windisch have been on their heels in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots.
Senior Kellie Schneider stepped it up in the last race [ISU Pre-Nationals], setting a career-best 6K time of 22:22 and finishing fourth on the squad.
"The confidence in our No. 5 and No. 6 positions have really improved since pre-nationals," said Whittlesey. Those spots are crucial for our success at the Big 12 Championships."
The men's team has seen similar results throughout the season, as it won the Bob Timmons Classic and Missouri Cross Country Challenge, took sixth at the OSU Cowboy Jamboree and finished 17th in a field of 34 at ISU Pre-Nationals.
Sophomore Donny Wasinger has led the men in every race of the 2009 campaign, including two top-five overall finishes. He has also set a new PR in each of his last three meets. Senior Bret Imgrund has been second behind Wasinger in the last two meets, which featured the toughest competition of the season. Imgrund placed 38th at last year's Big 12 Championship with an 8K time of 25:30.98.
A trio of sophomores including Austin Bussing, Kaleb Humphreys and Zach Zarda will look to fill the No. 2 - No. 5 spots, but juniors Nick Caprario and Dan Van Orsdel have also proved to been strong competitors this season. Josh Baden and David Roberts will also be part of the lineup this weekend, marking the first conference championship for both runners.
The men's biggest competition will come from Texas and Nebraska, who finished just a few points ahead of the Jayhawks at the 2008 Big 12 meet in Ames, Iowa.
"On the men's side, there will be at least four teams battling for that fifth spot, with us being one of them," said Whittlesey. "We square up pretty evenly with Texas, Texas A&M and Nebraska, so we will need to be confident in our ability to go head-to-head with that competition."
Last year, both the men and women finished eighth overall at the event. Bonds was named to the All-Big 12 team after a 12th place finish, while Wasinger's 28th-place performance was the best for the men.
Full results and meet recap will be available on www.kuathletics.com upon completion of the championships.