Evan Landes Adapting and Excelling at the Next Level

Sept. 23, 2011

Running has always been something KU freshman Evan Landes has excelled at. Being the son of a high school track and cross country coach, it is somewhat impossible to be bad at the sport. Having ample opportunities to absorb running through meets and races from a young age, Landes quickly realized the athletic path he would take as he got older. Luckily for him, he chose the right one, and is now continuing his journey that could take him to levels Kansas cross country has rarely seen.

092311aaa_607_5610672.jpegAs a teen, having a coach in the family quickly gave Landes the edge over almost all of his peers in junior high and high school. He admits that trying to find the balance between coach and Dad was difficult for both at first, but in the end it was something that made them closer.

“It was interesting at first,” Landes explained of adapting to the father, son, coach and pupil relationship. “Towards the end it got to the point where I was around him all the time and we developed a really good relationship. It was a lot easier to get the things done that I needed to better myself just because he was at my disposal all the time.”

Having the knowledge and insight of a coach under the same roof quickly paid dividends for Landes as he moved into the high school ranks. He earned his way to the top of the Mulvane High School cross country team, teams that have would go on to win three of four 4A Kansas state titles during Landes’ tenure. He also took home a title his junior year (2009) at the Rim Rock Farm Classic, a victory that quickly grabbed the attention of Kansas’ distance coach Michael Whittlesey.

“I really liked the way he competed and handled himself in the race,” said Whittlesey. “He was calm, confident and just kept on coming throughout the race. That’s the type of athlete we want here at KU, someone who is competitive and that’s relentless.”

After bringing home the individual state title his senior season, KU cross country coaches Stanley Redwine and Whittlesey made sure Landes would make his college home in Lawrence. Following several of his Mulvane High School teammates and the strong pitch from the KU coaches, Landes made the easy decision to make himself a Jayhawk.

“Coach Whitt was a big part of it,” said Landes of his decision to attend KU. “I really felt like he could help me get to where I want to go as a runner. Academically KU had what I was looking for, too.”

Landes is currently majoring in exercise science and is thinking about going to chiropractic school once his days at Kansas are behind him. Graduate school is also something he has considered ,but, like most freshmen, making a decision about next week, much less four years down the road, can be difficult.

Besides his academic successes, the only thing Landes is concerned with right now is becoming acclimated to the college levels of running. As with any sport, there is a vast difference between high school and college competition and for many freshmen, it can take a year or two to get used to it. Landes isn’t that patient though. His goals are to contribute to his team’s success now, and the level of work he is putting in these days reflects that. He will be the first to admit that, adapting to the changes in college is not an easy feat.

“I think the intensity overall is increased,” explained Landes of the changes from high school to college. “How much you’re running, volume-wise. How hard you’re training. I’d say I’m still adjusting. It will be a process but I’m fairly comfortable with how I’ve adjusted so far.”

Coach Whittlesey agrees many freshmen have a difficult time taking in the shock factor of just how different high school and college cross country are. Just last year the coaches redshirted 10 freshmen on both the men’s and women’s squads, mainly to give them time to mature and get reps with the upperclassmen. Apparently Landes is no ordinary freshman, because the coaches have no intention of redshirting him for his debut season. The confidence and talent level the coaches see in Landes is reassurance that he is making his way to the next level as a runner not just quickly, but effectively.

“He’s made the transition really well,” said Whittlesey. “He knew he wasn’t going to come in being the ‘top dog’ even though he was the top runner at his school the past two years. That’s the toughest change for most kids.”

The challenge of working his way up to the top of the KU squad was a big reason why Landes wanted to come to Kansas. He has done a good job of that so far. He is the only true freshman to don the Crimson and Blue in a meet this season for the Jayhawk men. Not only has he suited up, but he has run stride-for-stride with the veterans of the team. In both meets so far this season, Landes has placed sixth overall and has been in the top-five of KU’s finishers, cementing his spot in the lead pack.

“That was one of my goals; I wanted to come in and make an impact right away, because I felt like I could if I worked hard enough,” said Landes. “I’m happy now because this is where I wanted to be; to be in a position where I could help out the team.”

The quick transition has been made easier due to the constant oversight and instruction from Coach Whittlesey. Landes admits he was nervous about the shift from his father coaching him to someone new but working with Whittlesey the first few weeks quickly snuffed out any reservations Landes may have had.

“It’s been very enlightening,” said Landes of Coach Whittlesey’s insight. “He knows how it is here, at this level, and he knows what you need to work on to make yourself better.”

With the freshman jitters beginning to dissipate and as Landes gains more and more experience from week to week, he can now begin looking forward in the season. With at least five meets left, he feels he can help the KU program make it to new heights.

“I know we have some pretty big goals of trying to place high at the conference meet, at regionals and getting to nationals,” Landes said. “My goals are to just help out as much as I can and be there in the mix.”

Not many freshmen can say with such confidence that they expect to be in the thick of competition so early in their careers, but that’s Landes’ mindset and the mentality Coach Whittlesey not only wants in all of his freshmen, but in the minds of every athlete on his team.

“Evan has done a tremendous job in practice and sticking with the lead group of guys so far,” Whittlesey concluded. “I look to him to really be that standout on the distance side for us in the future both in cross country and track.”