Jayhawks head to Lubbock to face league opponents at Big 12 Championship

Big 12 Championship
Date Saturday, October 29
Time Women (6K) – 10 a.m. (CT)
Men (8K) – 11 a.m. (CT)
Location Lubbock, Texas
Stadium The Rawls Course
Notes Course Map
Stats Delta Timing
Video FloTrack ($)
Twitter @KansasXC | #kuxc
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Lubbock, Texas for the Big 12 Championship this Saturday, Oct. 29. The women’s 6K race is set to begin at 10 a.m., from the Rawls Course, with the men’s 8K to follow at 11 a.m.
Earning a victory at the Big 12 Championship is no easy feat, with two of the nation’s top-20 teams on the men’s side and three on the women’s side. According to the most recent U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll, the Oklahoma State men are ranked No. 9 and the Cowgirls are ranked No. 18. The Iowa State men are ranked No. 13, with the female Cyclones at No. 15. The Baylor women are also in the top-20, currently ranked No. 12 in the nation.
“It’s going to be a very competitive field,” assistant coach Michael Whittlesey said. “On the women’s side, I think there are about five teams that have potential to do really well and be in the top two or three. On the men’s side, there are two teams that I think are clear favorites. Then there’s an additional three teams that will be fighting for that third, fourth and fifth spot.”
It has been two weeks since the Jayhawks’ last competition, where the KU women placed 13th and the men placed 21st at the Pre-National Invitational. Sophomore All-American Sharon Lokedi individually finished 10th overall, marking the sixth time in her career she has placed in the top-10.
The leadership role has become the norm for Lokedi, as she has been the top Jayhawk finisher in every race she has competed in.
“Sharon is in great shape right now. Her aggressiveness in practice on a daily basis is that of someone who is really focused on winning,” Whittlesey said. “She’s got a great competitive spirit in her. We already feel comfortable with where she’s at, but now it’s about those nuances of trying to make sure we know how to execute well to get the win and put her in the top-three.”
For the rest of the women, running together will be a key factor to the team’s success.
 “It’s going to be extremely critical that we are packing well towards our third runner,” Whittlesey said. “Hopefully Sharon and Hannah (Richardson) will take care of business where they need to be, but we need to have four or five people running with Malika (Baker). We have been practicing like that and we are absolutely capable of it, now it’s just about execution. If we can do that we are going to be in a really good position to beat a lot of those teams.”
On the men’s side, Chris Melgares has been the top KU finisher the past two meets. At the Pre-National Invitational, he placed 63rd overall after clocking an 8K time of 25:00.4. Melgares is expected to help lead the Jayhawks once again in Lubbock this weekend.
“Chris has been doing a great job competing-wise and his mental focus in the races has been fantastic,” Whittlesey said. “He’s got that vision of where he wants to go and he’s been willing to challenge himself against other runners.”
It will be important for the men’s team to close the gap and continue to attack throughout the duration of the race. Their main struggle this season has been trying to stick with the lead runner and not fall behind.
“We have multiple guys who are capable of being in our top two or three,” Whittlesey said. “Dylan Hodgson, James Hampton, Bryce Richards, Michael Melgares and Daniel Koech can all be challengers. So if they all follow Chris’ lead of what he’s been doing the last couple races and we close the gap to about 10 seconds, we could have a great result.”
As the Jayhawks prepare to face a field of tough competition at the Big 12 Championship, the main differentiating factor will be less about capability and more about who is going to compete.
“It’s going to come down to who will ignore the discomfort, ignore the pain and really just have a competitive desire from the beginning to the end,” Whittlesey concluded. “If we execute the way that I know we can, then hopefully we can be the one beating those other teams.”
Following the Big 12 Championship, the Jayhawks will head to Iowa City, Iowa, for NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Saturday, Nov. 11. The women’s 6K race will start at 11 a.m., while the men will kick off their 10K race at noon.
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