Jayhawks Confident Heading into Big 12 Cross Country Championships

Oct. 27, 2011

Big 12 Championship Notes Get Acrobat Reader

102711aab_872_5761504.jpegLAWRENCE, Kan. – After five regular-season meets and weeks of practice, Kansas cross country will begin the toughest stretch of the 2011 season at the Big 12 Championships in College Station, Texas. The Jayhawks will see their first postseason action Saturday at Pebble Creek Country Club. The men’s 8K race kicks off at 10 a.m. CST, followed by women’s 6K at 11 a.m. CST.

“It’s definitely time to man-up and execute,” said Assistant Coach Michael Whittlesey. “At this meet, it’s all about marking your opponent and taking care of business competitively. It’s definitely going to be a matchup game between Texas A&M, Texas, Iowa State and ourselves to battle for a top spot.”

Kansas will face several of the nation’s top teams at this year’s league championship. In the latest NCAA Division I national rankings, the Big 12 boasts four men’s teams and three women’s squads in the top 30. For the men, Oklahoma State has claimed the top spot every week in the poll this year, followed by No. 5 Oklahoma, No.11 Texas and No. 24 Texas A&M.

On the women’s side, No. 12 Texas leads the league, followed by No. 13 Iowa State and No. 30 Oklahoma State.

The KU women have high expectations for this meet, especially with senior standout Rebeka Stowe leading the pack. Stowe has been the women’s top finisher in each of her three meets this season, which includes two top-15 finishes. Although she will be pitted against some of the best runners in the country, Stowe has the potential to place in the top five overall, according to her coaches.

“Anything is possible for Rebeka,” explained Whittlesey. “For her, it’s all about execution, both individual and team-wise. She needs to put us where we’re supposed to be and if she executes within the race she’ll be in a great position at the end. Rebeka has a chance to be anywhere within the top five if she does that successfully.”

The Jayhawks’ No. 2 runner this season has been senior Kara Windisch. Her top finish came at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge in a runner-up performance. She will be looked upon to once again stick with Stowe and push the rest of the KU women to top finishes.

The key for the KU women this weekend is how the No. 3-5 runners finish. Senior Cori Christensen and juniors Kyra Kilwein and Tessa Turcotte have been in the women’s top five in each of the races they have competed in this season and their coaches say where they finish this weekend will determine the overall success of the team.

“Those three (Christensen, Kilwein and Turcotte) are going to determine how well the women do as a team,” said Whittlesey. “How well those three run together and how well those three pick apart the other teams is going to be vital for the women. I expect them to do those things well and in turn the team should do well also.”

Also competing this weekend for the women will be junior Kathleen Thompson, sophomore Brittany Tate and freshmen Ragan Allen and Liza Tauscher.

The men’s team has seen great results throughout the season, as it won the Bob Timmons Classic and the Missouri Cross Country Challenge and finished 23rd in a field of 39 at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

Three different runners have led the men’s team in the four scored meets this season, making nearly all those competing Saturday candidates to be the men’s top finisher. Junior Zach Zarda, who claimed the individual title at the Bob Timmons Challenge, has led the men in two races, while senior Austin Bussing was the top KU finisher at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Redshirt freshman James Wilson has also had a standout season, running to a second-place finish at the Missouri Cross Country Invitational to lead the team. Those three will need to once again turn in solid performances in College Station to ensure the team’s success.

“The men need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” explained Whittlesey. “They’ve really learned how to execute as a pack and they need to continue that. It wouldn’t surprise me for any one of our guys to step up and be our No. 1 runner this weekend because everyone has looked really good these past couple weeks. We’ll need some great efforts on Saturday.”

While the men are young, they make up for it with talent and experience. They will feature a lineup that has seen action in a combined 60 meets over the past two seasons as well as four runners who saw action in last year’s conference meet.

Also making the trip to College Station will be junior Josh Baden, sophomores Jose Muñoz and Josh Munsch and freshmen Reid Buchanan, Conner Day, Evan Landes and Emilio Trujillo.

Last year, both the KU men and women finished seventh overall at the event. Stowe was named to the All-Big 12 team after a 12th place finish, while injured senior Donny Wasinger also placed on the All-Big 12 team, finishing in 13th for the men.

“Our main focus this weekend is confidence,” concluded Whittlesey. “If we can beat some good teams at the conference meet, that will really give us the self-belief we need moving forward. That’s the main thing we’ve been working toward all season.”

For complete coverage of the Big 12 Championships including live updates and results, log on to kuathletics.com or follow on twitter at KUGameday.