Jayhawks Continue Championship Action

Nov. 12, 2009


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For Kansas cross country, the pinnacle of the 2009 season has arrived. The men’s and women’s squads will head to Springfield, Mo. for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Saturday, Nov. 14. The men will compete in their first 10K race of the season, while the women will run a familiar 6K distance.

The Midwest Regional Championships is one of nine regional meets held nationally at the Division I level. This event is particularly important in terms of post-season competition because not only does it determine the top teams in each region, but it also serves as the first round of the NCAA Championships. The top two teams and the top four individuals, who are not on a qualifying team, automatically advance to nationals, held on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. Additional teams and individuals are determined through an at-large process, after review by the selection committee following the regional competitions.

Although there are many contributing factors, the KU women’s team has its sights set on an at-large bid as they enter the 2009 Midwest Regional Championships.

“The interesting thing is, you might think you have points and may count on the points you think you have, but nothing matters until other teams race as well,” said KU Assistant Coach Michael Whittlesey. “By beating Baylor twice this year, we think that helps our chances because we feel Baylor has the ability to get out of its conference with an automatic bid. But, if they do not get the job done, those wins over Baylor mean nothing to us. There really is not a team in the country right now that knows with 100% assurance that they are going to nationals.”

The women are coming off a fifth-place performance at the Big 12 Championships, which was the team’s highest finish at the league meet since 1994. The Jayhawks will face four of nation’s top 30 teams at this meet, but the squad is confident in its ability to place well in the Midwest region.

“I think on an absolutely fantastic day, we could be third, and that is with some help,” said Whittlesey. “But I definitely know we could be fourth or fifth if we have the race we are capable of running. Even if other teams do what they are capable of doing, we could still be that fifth school. I am excited about our team and many of the girls are feeling the best they have all season.”

Leading the team will be senior Lauren Bonds, who recently captured All-Big 12 honors for the second year in a row with her 10th-place finish at the conference championships. Last year, Bonds finished 15th overall at the Midwest Regional Championships, and barely missed the cut for an at-large bit to nationals. This year, she will not only will be a major factor in helping her team earn a ticket to Terre Haute, but she will be hard to beat as a individual contender as well.

Bonds will be joined by senior Kellie Schneider and sophomore Rebeka Stowe, both of whom had impressive races at the Big 12s. Stowe finished 28th overall with a 6K time of 22:35.07, while Schneider cracked the top 50 with a time of 23:03.85 to take 47th.

Veterans Amanda Miller and Kara Windisch will also play a significant role this weekend in Springfield. Miller will compete at regionals for the third consecutive year. In 2008, the Overland Park, Kan., native placed second on the team and 33rd overall. Windisch was the Jayhawks’ No. 3 finisher last year, posting a 6K time of 22:57.65 to earn 60th place.

Rounding out the lineup for the KU women are freshmen Kathleen Thompson and Tessa Turcotte.

The men’s team enters the Midwest Regional Championships with the goal of beating certain teams that have been within reach all season, most notably Nebraska and Iowa.

“Our expectation for the men’s team is to beat schools we know we are better than, or at least know we are capable of beating on a good day,” said Whittlesey. “We need to go after these specific teams. They have beaten us before this year, but we were never far away from them, so we know we can get these teams. If we have the race we know we are capable of having, and beat some of these schools, we will have done our job with the squad this year.”

Highlighting the men’s team will be sophomore Donny Wasinger. The Winona, Minn., native had a strong performance as a freshman at last year’s Midwest Regional Championships. He finished in 28th place with a 10K time of 32:09.80.

Senior Bret Imgrund, juniors Dan Van Orsdel and Nick Caprario and sophomore Kaleb Humphreys will also benefit from experience with the 10K competition, as all four members of the team competed at regionals in 2008. Imgrund took 30th place last year, while Humphreys, Van Orsdel and Caprario finished just seconds apart at 57th, 60th and 61st place, respectively.

Sophomores Zach Zarda and Austin Bussing complete the regionals roster for the KU men this season

The Midwest Regional Championships will kick off at 12 p.m. CST with the men’s 10K, followed by the women’s 6K at 1:15 p.m. CST. Results and a meet recap will be available on www.kuathletics.com upon completion of the race.