2019 Cross Country In Review
Kansas cross country started off the 2019 season strong with wins across the board in the Bob Timmons Classic on August 31 and the Rim Rock Collegiate Challenge on October 5. The Jayhawks ran to a combined four team titles between the two meets on their home course for the season. Ally Ryan was undefeated at Rim Rock Farm in her sophomore season for KU with individual titles won at both home meets. She finished with times of 18:49.7 in the Bob Timmons Classic 5K and 22:59.3 for her 6K win in the Rim Rock Collegiate Classic. On the men’s side, senior George Letner was the first Jayhawk to cross the finish line for Kansas in the season-opening Bob Timmons Classic, as he came in third place running a 19:31.9 6K. Fellow senior teammate Michael Melgares accomplished the same feat at the rain delayed and muddy Rim Rock Collegiate Classic, where he traversed the 8K course in 25:47.4.
Two weeks later, on October 19, the Jayhawks headed east to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the Pre-National Invitational hosted by Indiana State. Oftentimes considered a test run for postseason action, the annual event showed teams where they compared to others at this midway point in the season. Ryan again crossed the finish line first for the Jayhawks with her 6K time of 21:44.3, placing 129th out of a field of 252 runners. On the men’s side, the Jayhawks were 19th out of 38 teams in the 8K Blue Race, which was considered to be fastest race of the day according to the FloTrack announcers, which live streamed the meet. Freshman Chandler Gibbens made his collegiate debut, running 21:14.2 and finished in 33rd place out of 257 competitors to lead the Kansas men.
Cottonwood Creek Golf Course in Waco, Texas was the site chosen to host the 2019 Big 12 Cross Country Championship on November 2. In the men’s 8K, the Jayhawks placed fourth out of nine teams while the Cyclones of Iowa State claimed the title. The top-15 individual finishers in each race earned All-Big 12 honors. Included among those recipients was Gibbens, whose time of 24:06.0 was good for 12th place. Seniors Melgares and Dylan Hodgson just missed out on individual honors, as they finished in 16th and 17th place, respectively. Kansas was sixth out of 10 teams on the women’s side, with Oklahoma State besting Texas by a mere two points to be named the league champion. Junior Cameron Gueldner was one of four KU women to who completed the 6K race in the 30s out of 86 total participants, leading the Jayhawks with a time of 21:43.4 to place 30th individually.
On a sunny Friday, November 15, the Kansas cross country teams took to the sprawling OSU Cross Country Course for the 2019 Midwest Regional Championships. Freshman Lona Latema finished first among the KU women, recording a time of 22:00.5 and leading the team to a 17th-place finish out of 33 teams competing in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Running their first 10K of the season, the Jayhawk men finished third out of 27 teams, just missing an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships, as the top-two teams in each regional advanced. It marked the men’s highest finish at a Regional meet since 2006, when the team placed second overall to qualify for the national meet. The top-25 individual finishers in each race earned All-Region honors, including three men from KU: Hodgson (14th place, 31:14.3), junior Ben Butler (20th place, 31:19.7) and Gibbens, who finished 21st in 31:26.2. All three Jayhawks had the best finishes at a Regional Meet since 2015, when Landes placed ninth overall.
The 2019 cross country season came to an end for Kansas after the teams competed in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. Even though the men’s team placed third overall and had three individual All-Region honorees, Kansas did not receive any at-large bids to the 2019 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Following the conclusion of the season, Gibbens was named the Big 12 Men’s Cross Country Newcomer of the Year, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.