Lokedi leads Jayhawks, finishes 10th at the Pre-National Invitational
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The University of Kansas men’s and women’s cross country teams battled tough competition Saturday at the 2016 Pre-National Invitational at the LaVern Gipson Championship Course. Sophomore All-American Sharon Lokedi was the highest-placing Jayhawk, finishing the 6K race in 10th overall with a time of 20:26.3. Lokedi’s performance helped the KU women to a 13th-place team finish. The Jayhawk men placed 21st overall and were headed by junior Chris Melgares, who clocked an 8K time of 25:00.4 and came in 63rd.
“I thought Sharon had an excellent race,” head coach Stanley Redwine said. “Being in the top-10 overall is always a positive. As it relates to overall effort as a team, it was good but not great. There’s still room to improve, but we certainly performed better than two weeks ago (at the Rim Rock Classic).”
Lokedi stayed in the leading pack through the halfway point of the race, but Michigan’s Erin Finn pulled away from the group and the cluster began to thin out. Lokedi came through the finish in a time of 20:26.3, over 11 seconds faster than her 6K race two weeks ago at the Rim Rock Classic.
“I was definitely more confident in her performance and I think she also felt more confident,” Redwine said. “It’s just a step along the way in a long season, but she did much better.”
Rounding out the women’s scorers were senior Hannah Richardson (58th) with a time of 21:05.5, senior Malika Baker (86th) finishing in 21:19.8, junior Hannah Dimmick (165th) clocking a time of 21:55.5 and senior Nashia Baker (173rd) completing the race with a time of 21:59.0.
The final two Jayhawk women to complete the 6K race in Terre Haute were senior Jennifer Angles (210th) who clocked time of 22:18.8 and junior Lydia Saggau who crossed the finish line in 22:25.1, placing 216th overall. The team ended the day with 492 points, earning KU a 13th-place finish.
The Kansas men also had a challenging day, placing 21st as a team, just outside the top-20. Although they would have liked a higher finish, there were still encouraging takeaways.
“I thought the men had a lot of positives in the race,” Redwine said. “If you look at overall placing, it’s not favorable, but we had one of our top runners who didn’t finish today and he always finishes. The people who did complete the race competed well as a pack and they did everything they were asked to do.”
Junior and team captain Chris Melgares was the team’s top finisher for the second time this season, placing 63rd in 25:00.4. After the first 3,000 meters, Melgares pushed himself to be the leading Jayhawk and he remained the KU’s top runner the rest of the race.
“Chris is doing a great job. He’s competing well, training well and leading well,” Redwine said. “As time goes on, he steps up more and more so we’re excited about that. Obviously you expect everyone on your team to do well, but he’s really showing what he’s capable of.”
Sophomore Dylan Hodgson was the second Jayhawk to cross the finish line, placing 77th and running the 8K in 25:07.6. Other Jayhawk scorers consisted of sophomore Michael Melgares (25:22.0) finishing 112th, senior James Hampton (25:26.2) in 125th and junior Ben Burchstead (26:37.9) placing 239th. In their 21st-place team finish, the Kansas men ended with 599 points.
Later in the day a host of Jayhawks competed in the open races. Senior Courtney Coppinger completed the women’s 6K contest with a time of 22:26.9, good enough for 12th place overall. In the men’s 8K open race, freshman Avery Hale was the top Jayhawk runner. He finished in 26:53.9 and placed 25th.
The Kansas cross country teams will now shift their focus to the Big 12 Championship. The race will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Lubbock, Texas. The women’s 6K race will begin at 10 a.m. (CT) and the men’s 8K race will kick off at 11 a.m. (CT).
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