Kansas Cross Country Gears Up for 2011 Season
Aug. 16, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas’ men’s and women’s cross country teams reported to campus Tuesday to officially kick off the 2011 season. The Jayhawks will begin with team meetings in the morning and afternoon and will then begin training sessions on Wednesday morning. The teams will have 16 days of practice before the first meet of the season on September 3, the Bob Timmons Classic held at KU’s home course, Rim Rock Farm.
Expectations are high as the Jayhawks head into another season of Kansas cross country. The 2011 season will see the return of 12 letterwinners on the men’s side, while the women return nine from a 2010 campaign that saw both teams place 11th or better at the NCAA Regionals. Both teams will be filled with experience and depth from top to bottom, having all but one of their top five performers return from last season.
“I’m really looking forward to see how the season turns out,” said 12th-year Head Coach Stanley Redwine. “On paper, we should be pretty good. Both teams have experience. Both teams have depth. My expectations are certainly that our kids will come in and have a successful season.”
With a strong cast of returners making up the majority of both men’s and women’s squads, the 2011 roster will be filled with confidence and, more importantly, experience from top to bottom. Six women and six men who saw action in last year’s Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regionals will be back in the Crimson and Blue in 2011. The KU roster also features four seniors on each of the men’s and women’s squads as well as seven juniors, three for the men and four for the women.
“With both men’s and women’s teams we have a pretty strong nucleus of returners coming back,” said third-year assistant coach Mike Whittlesey. “We only lost one from our top-5 on both the men’s and the women’s teams last year, so we have a lot of experience coming back. The things we will really work on this season are trying to get the right combination and understanding how we need to compete in the big races.”
Even though there is a plethora of leadership returning, for the season to be a real success will be dependent on the underclassmen, who will add depth to the KU roster. The teams will feature a combined five sophomores and nine redshirt freshmen, many of whom saw action in several meets last season. Those young Jayhawks will be looked upon to make significant contributions throughout the year and will be imperative to the teams’ overall success as the season wears on.
“One of the things Coach Whittlesey has done has been to develop great depth,” said Coach Redwine. “We have redshirted some people that will be able to come up and contribute for us this year. We also had a lot of our young runners get experience and contribute last year, which will really pay-off for us this season.”
While there will be a great amount of experience on this year’s squad, as always, there will be several fresh faces. Eleven freshmen (six men, five women) and one transfer will be joining the Jayhawks for the 2011 campaign and will be expected to catch on quickly and contribute immediately.
The 2011 Jayhawks will feature a quality that recent teams have lacked at times, senior leadership. Kansas returns two athletes that were All-Big 12 selections a year ago, Donny Wasinger and Rebeka Stowe, who are both primed for tremendous seasons. Both were KU’s top finishers in each race they competed in last season and both are looking to continue that streak this year, while also pushing their teammates to some top finishes as well.
“The one common denominator on all of our past great teams is that we’ve had a great leader,” explained Coach Redwine. “This year we have that in Donny (Wasinger) on the men’s side and Rebeka (Stowe) on the women’s side. It starts at the top. If you have great leaders, then you have great depth, and once you’ve got those two things then you’re going to see some great results by the end of the season.”
The 2011 Jayhawks are confident, deep, experienced and are coming off of one of the toughest summer workout regiments they have ever seen. This season, they will look to move the Kansas program that much closer to the upper echelon of collegiate cross country and to write another chapter in the KU cross country’s storied history.
“Our goal is to be a perennial national championship contender, and I think this year we will take great strides toward that goal,” said Coach Whittlesey. “There’s a great heritage here at Kansas for cross country and I think our athletes have embraced that and have learned to value themselves and this program at a much higher level. Now that we have achieved that, the rest is going to become easier.”
“The biggest change I’ve noticed in recent years is the athletes want to be great,” Coach Redwine concluded. “Their goal is to be at the top as a team. They’re coming in with the mindset, `Yes, we can do this’ and once you get those components together, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when it starts to get fun.”
The 2011 schedule is sure to test the Jayhawks from the first meet to the last, putting them up against some of the most competitive fields in the NCAA this season.
“I feel like we’ve got a really strong schedule this year,” said assistant coach Mike Whittlesey. “It will be fun seeing our athletes going up against the best courses and the best athletes from around the country.”
The 2011 season will once again kick-off with the Bob Timmons Classic on September 3 at the Jayhawks’ home course, Rim Rock Farm. At least one team has claimed the meet title the last five-consecutive seasons and has had at least one individual claim a title in the past seven meets. The meet will provide a prime opportunity for some of the young Jayhawks to prove themselves and build confidence for the remainder of the season.
The following week both teams will travel to Columbia, Mo., for a September 10 match-up against rival Missouri at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge. Both the men’s and women’s teams have good memories from last year’s meet. The men won the event while the women placed four runners in the top 10 to finish second.
After a week break the Jayhawks will have to traverse through one of the toughest courses they will face all season when they compete at the Roy Griak Invitational on September 24 in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Jayhawks will then return to Lawrence and compete against their neighbors from Haskell in the Haskell Invitational on October 8. The meet will be another opportunity for the Jayhawks to gain confidence as they head in to the challenging part of the schedule.
On October 15 the teams will face arguably the toughest competition of the season at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis. Many of the country’s top teams have entered the meet hosted by Wisconsin this year instead of competing in the also competitive Pre-Nationals Meet, making the event in Madison a star-filled race.
“I really think the Wisconsin meet is going to be stronger than the NCAA Championships, competition-wise,” said Whittlesey. “Most of the top-40 teams in the country have decided to go to that meet this year. All the players are going to be at that one. It’s going to be tough but it’ll give us some great experience.”
From there, the Jayhawks will then prepare for the Big 12 Championships on October 29 in College Station, Texas. Both teams will look to improve upon their seventh-place finishes at the meet last season, and will look to have an individual champion crowned for the first time since 2007.
The NCAA Regional Championships will take place on November 12 in Dekalb, Ill. The Jayhawks placed two individuals in the top 20 last season and will hope to place even more in that select group this season, in order to send teams to the NCAA Championships.
“Our goal is to qualify for the NCAA meet as a team,” said head coach Stanley Redwine. “We have had individuals in the past but getting our team qualified has to be the goal we work toward throughout the season. That regional meet is always a very important one for us.”
Indiana State will once again host the NCAA Championships at its home course, the LaVern Gibson Championship Course, on November 21. Senior Donny Wasinger already has solid experience on this course after competing there in the NCAA Championships last season. Wasinger will attempt to make it back to Terre Haute for a second-straight year and will hope he is joined by several of his teammates from both the men’s and women’s teams.
“This schedule really has the potential to set us up to do some good things late in the season,” Coach Whittlesey explained. “Our goals are definitely for a top five, if not higher, team finish at the Big 12 meet. Then of course to earn a trip for both teams to the NCAA Championships. That should be our goal every single year, however, this is really the year that we have a great chance of accomplishing that.”
The KU men return the bulk of the runners that combines for much of their success in 2010. Even though the Jayhawks lose the leadership and experience of outgoing senior Nick Caprario, several other men are fit to fill his spot at the front of the pack.
The Jayhawks will once again be led by senior Donny Wasinger who has been the team’s top performer for the past three seasons. The Winona, Minn., native is coming off a season where he was an All-Big 12 selection after his 13th-place finish at the conference meet, earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships for his 10th-place finish at the NCAA Regionals, broke the 25-minute mark in each 8K race he competed in and became the first KU male to take part in the NCAA Championships since 2007.
“Donny really had it figured out last year,” said assistant coach Mike Whittlesey. “He learned an awful lot throughout the season and gained a lot of confidence in himself and a lot of aggressiveness from a racing standpoint. I expect him to be up there at the top of the conference and go for All-American.”
With Wasinger looking to build on his already impressive resume, the coaches are hoping he can lead his teammates to a top finish at the conference and NCAA meets.
“It’s those seasoned veterans that know how to train and mentally prepare for the big races and I think that’s where Donny is right now,” added Coach Redwine. “That will make him a great leader for this team because of his great experience.”
Wasinger isn’t the only upperclassman looking to end his career in Lawrence on a high note. Fellow senior Austin Bussing was consistently a top performer for the Jayhawks in 2010, coming in as KU’s third finisher three times on the season. Bussing and Wasinger will be joined by fellow upperclassman Zach Zarda as the veteran leaders of this year’s men’s squad. Zarda each saw action in two meets for the Jayhawks last season; the highlights for coming in top-10 finishes at the both the Bob Timmons Classic and Missouri Cross Country Challenge. The veteran leadership and knowledge of these three fourth-year men will be a key ingredient for the success of the 2011 campaign.
Junior Josh Baden is coming off a fantastic sophomore season in 2010. He was one of only two Jayhawks to compete in all six meets, finishing in the team’s top four in four those races. Rounding out the upperclassmen for the men are Sean Proehl and Eric Dyson who each bring speed and athleticism to give the team a more complete skill set.
The KU men also return a strong class of sophomores that bring experience beyond their years. Jose Muñoz, Josh Munsch and Nikki Trooien-Smith were each members of the seven-man team that competed in the Big 12 Championships a year ago. Trooien-Smith and Muñoz alsosaw action at the Midwest Regionals, giving them experience few sophomores can bolster. Those three men will be on the front lines for the Jayhawks this season will be instrumental in KU’s accomplishments.
“We talked about the goals all summer long with this group of juniors and sophomores,” said coach Whittlesey. “About how we need to be more effective as a team, and how we can’t just depend on the seniors to do it all this year. They’ve been training great this summer and hopefully it will show in the results come the first meet.”
Rounding out the men’s team depth will be a group of five eager redshirt freshmen who have spent a year honing their skills at the collegiate level. Conner Day, James Wilson and Emilio Trujillo are a few who could help the KU men surprise teams around the country this year.
“We redshirted a lot of freshmen last year so we’re expecting a much tighter pack from our guys,” coach Whittlesey explained. “They really give us a well-rounded component to our group and it gives us a shot to run with any team in the country.”
In addition, coaches Redwine and Whittlesey again have a talented and enthusiastic group of incoming freshman that will be expected to contribute early and often to the season’s success. Six true freshmen are expected to suit up in the Crimson and Blue this year, all of which were the top performers for their respective high school teams.
2011 is sure to be an action-packed season for the Kansas women, who return a key nucleus of runners that had standout seasons a year ago. Like the men, the lady Jayhawks lost a key aspect from last year’s squad in departing senior Amanda Miller. However, the coaches have their eyes on several women who will be able to fill the void left by Miller and beyond.
Leading the KU nucleus will be senior Rebeka Stowe, who had a breakthrough season last year, becoming just the third KU woman to earn All-Big 12 honors while also leading the women’s team in all four races she competed in.
“I expect Rebeka to be up there as one of the top runners in the country this year,” said Coach Whittlesey. “She was certainly close last year but she’s improved so much over the course of this year. I think we’re going to see some big things from her this season.”
Cori Christensen, Devin Wiegers and Kara Windisch will join forces with Stowe to guide the women’s team as senior leaders this year. Windisch saw action in three of the bigger meets last season, with a top performance coming at the NCAA Midwest regionals in a 54th-place finish.
“Kara Windisch should have an outstanding season,” Coach Whittlesey explained. “She really started coming along at the end of the last outdoor track season and I think she’s going to carry that over to this year.”
Christensen and Weigers each picked up valuable skills and confidence in the early meets last season and will hope it can translate to some top performances in 2011. Each placed in the top 10 at the Bob Timmons Classic and Christensen placed ninth at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge to come in as KU’s fourth finisher.
The coaches are expecting a lot out of the junior group of Kyra Kilwein, Allie Marquis, Kathleen Thompson and Tessa Turcotte. Each were an integral aspect of the women’s team last season and now bring another year of experience that should prove beneficial.
“One of the difficulties about last year was we had a lot of girls that hadn’t really had a full season of competition under their belt and hadn’t been in big races,” said Whittlesey. “Now they’ve been there. People like Tessa Turcotte, Allie Marquis and Kyra Kilwein are now veterans and I expect them to learn from last year, which was running as a stronger pack and running together more effectively.”
Redshirt sophomore Natalie Becker will also be back in the Crimson and Blue and looks to have another solid season. She was the women’s No. 2 performer throughout 2010 and will help add versatility to the roster.
“Even though she’s a sophomore, Natalie (Becker) is one of the veterans on this team,” added Coach Whittlesey. “She had a really good year last season and I’m excited to see what she will do this year.”
Like the men, the women have a solid group of redshirt freshmen that are primed to make a difference in 2011. Charlene Browne, Madison Moser, Lauren Guasto and Maddy Rich used the extra year of practice and preparation to learn from their coaches and teammates. They now add a much-needed aspect of depth to help round out the women’s roster.
The women have added six newcomers to this year’s squad; five true freshmen and a sophomore transfer. While young, they are a talented group that will surely turn some heads once the season begins.
“I expect our girls to try and run with Rebeka this year, whereas last year, I don’t think that was in everyone’s mindset,” concluded Coach Whittlesey. “The girls are going to start closing the gap on (Stowe) because they’ve improved so much, and that will make this a really solid team.”
Head Coach Stanley Redwine and select members of the 2011 Kansas cross country teams will participate in KU’s Olympic Sports media day on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Media day begins at 12 p.m. and will be held in the Allen Fieldhouse media room located in the northwest corner of Allen Fieldhouse (across from the men’s basketball locker room). Each coach will make opening comments before giving media members the floor for questions. Following the coaches, Donny Wasinger and Rebeka Stowe will be available to talk with the media.
Any requests for additional athletes should be directed to cross country contact Brad Gilbert via email at brgilbertku.edu or by calling (785) 864-7788.