KU Cross Country Set for NCAA Midwest Regionals
Nov. 10, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – It’s do or die this weekend for the Kansas cross country teams as they head to DeKalb, Ill., for the NCAA Midwest Regional on Saturday, Nov. 12. Both teams will try to extend the season and attempt to finish as one of the top two squads in the region, earning automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
“It’s time for us to put our best race out there and run like there’s no tomorrow,” said third-year assistant coach Michael Whittlesey. “The biggest goal for us this weekend is to run with the sense of urgency that’s required at the Regional Meet. The only ways we’re going to do that is to run as a pack, run with passion and just compete our hearts out.”
The KU women’s team will once again be led by seniors Rebeka Stowe and Kara Windisch. Stowe, who hails from Olathe, Kan., is coming off a seventh-place performance at the Big 12 Championships two weeks ago, that earned her All-Big 12 honors. The Overland Park, Kan., native, Windisch finished in 17th-place at the Big 12 Championships and has been the second Jayhawk women’s finisher in every race this season.
The success of the women’s team rests heavily on the shoulders of the two veterans. The coaches are hoping they will not only lead the team on the course, but off it as well, to prepare their teammates mentally for the biggest race so far this season.
“They need to race like they did at the Big 12 meet,” Whittlesey said of his expectations of Stowe and Windisch this weekend. “Off the course they need to keep everyone’s confidence up; the confidence that we, as a team, can do this and if we just put together a good race then we’ll be successful. There’s no question we need great leadership from our captains this weekend.”
Joining the two leaders in DeKalb will be senior Cori Christensen, juniors Kyra Kilwein and Tessa Turcotte, sophomore Brittany Tate and freshman Liza Tauscher.
The KU men enter the Midwest Regional with the goal of beating certain teams that have been within reach all season; most notably, Tulsa and Iowa State.
“We’ve got to man-up against Tulsa and Iowa State,” explained Whittlesey. “Those are the two teams that we’ve got to be able to beat. There are going to be a lot of teams trying to do the same thing to us, so it’s going to be important for the guys to really stay focused on the teams we are really trying to compete with and doing their job.”
The men’s team will be highlighted by senior Austin Bussing, who has led the men in the past two races. Bussing, a Houston, Texas product, placed 22nd at the Big 12 Championships and looks to continue to improve at the Midwest Regional.
Bussing will be have a pair of juniors joining him in DeKalb in juniors Zach Zarda and Josh Baden. It will be up to them to lead the remainder of the men’s lineup, which includes runners who will be seeing their first regional meet action: sophomore Josh Munsch, redshirt freshman James Wilson and true freshman Reid Buchanan and Evan Landes. While it may be their first taste of NCAA meet action, the coaches are confident they can contribute, while also gaining valuable experience.
“They (underclassmen) need to take advantage of this experience, not only for this year but for us down the road,” said Whittlesey. “We’re going to be counting on these young guys for the next two to three years. They need to gain a lot of experience from the meet this year, hopefully crack into our top five and make an impact.”
The top two finishing teams automatically advance to the NCAA Championships, as well as the top four individuals who are not members of the two advancing teams. At-large bids are determined the Monday after each regional has been reviewed by the selection committee.
“We’ve got to get out as a pack; that’s been the key for our teams since day one,” concluded Whittlesey. “Our runners need to understand that these races are a long haul and the fighting isn’t the first mile-and-a-half, it’s in the middle and later part of the race. Sometimes you forget how hard you have to fight for the whole race and that’s what we have to make sure we do this weekend to be successful.”
Midwest Regional action from the NIU North 40 Cross Country Course will begin at 12 p.m. (CST) with the men’s 10K race and will wrap up with the women’s 6K race, which begins at 1:15 p.m. (CST). For live updates and a complete recap of the day’s events, log on to kuathletics.com or follow twitter at KUGameday.
If either Kansas teams or individuals qualify automatically or receive an at large bid they will make the trip to the NCAA Championships, which take place on Monday, Nov. 21 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.