Lokedi makes history, snares individual title at Big 12 Championship

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LUBBOCK, Texas – The University of Kansas men’s and women’s cross country teams faced their league opponents this morning at the 2016 Big 12 Championship meet at the Rawls Course. Sophomore All-American Sharon Lokedi made headlines after she ran to victory with her 6K time of 20:18.5. Lokedi’s win marked the first individual league title in the history of the women’s program. She led the Kansas women to a sixth-place team finish. Senior James Hampton also saw a top-15 finish, as he placed 14th and earned All-Big 12 honors for the first time in his career. Hampton’s performance helped propel the KU men’s team to fourth-place.
Lokedi has now placed in the top-10 in seven of her eight collegiate outings. She started Saturday by pacing herself at the beginning of The Rawls Course, staying near third place for the first 3,000 meters. Around the 4K mark, Lokedi decided it was time to kick it in and push to the lead spot. She remained there for the rest of the race, crossing the finish line 14 seconds ahead of the next finisher.
“When I started, I didn’t want to go out too hard,” Lokedi said. “I kept just kept listening to my body and kept it under control. With each mile, the more I ran, the better I felt. I was like, ‘I can do this.’ Once I reached that point (4K mark) I knew that was the time to go. My body was adjusting well and mentally I was ready.”
 Senior James Hampton ran to All-Big 12 honors after finishing 14th at the league meet Saturday.Since Lokedi arrived to Kansas last year, many believed it was just a matter of time before she earned a first-place title.
“I am really excited for Sharon. She’s phenomenal and she’s done nothing but great things for us. She really prepared well for this,” head coach Stanley Redwine said. “Coach (Whittlesey) knew that she was ready for it; Sharon had confidence and knew that she was ready. So it was really nice to see her hard work pay off. Hopefully this is just a sign of what’s to come.”
Senior Hannah Richardson also had a standout top-20 performance, placing 19th with a time of 21:22.0.
Rounding out the Jayhawk scorers were junior Lydia Saggau (21:41.4) in 31st, senior Malika Baker (21:49.9) finishing 33rd and senior Jennifer Angles (22:17.9) who placed 46th overall.
The women accumulated a total score of 129 points, earning them a sixth-place team finish.
Unlike the women’s race, the men got off to a slower start. The 8K was tightly contested, as only 10 seconds separated the top 50 runners halfway through the race. With 3,000 meters to go, it was James Hampton leading the way for the Kansas men. He was the first Jayhawk to cross the finish line, clocking a time of 26:01.5, good enough for 14th-place and All-Big 12 honors.
“It started off really slow, but we kind of expected that,” Hampton said. “That’s just how Oklahoma State and Iowa State run and we knew we wanted to be in a position next to them. We kind of relied on them to make the first move, and they did with about 4K to go. I think we did a good job staying with them through the 6K mark, then that’s when the race started to get spread out.”
As a senior, this was Hampton’s last Big 12 Championship meet. He finished his conference career by earning All-Big 12 honors.
“It feels really good. My freshman year at this meet I was in the back, but each season I have progressively gotten better,” Hampton recalled. “It really shows that you don’t have to be the best runner when you’re a freshman. It matters when it’s your last Big 12s. I wanted to go out there, do my best and give it my all, and I think I did that today.”
The depth of the men’s team was on full display today with the top-five runners all placing in the top-35. This was a promising step, as they successfully executed the game plan.
“The goal of the meet was to have a total team effort,” Redwine said. “As excited as I am for James, I’m also really excited for the team because they did what was asked of them. They went out and did exactly what they were supposed to do. I’m really satisfied with their performance.”
The top-five team finish gives the men momentum to feed off of heading into the NCAA Midwest Regional in two weeks.
“It really helps my confidence both individually and as a team,” Hampton said. “Each meet we’ve put the pieces together. Beating Oklahoma today was a great confidence boost for us and so was getting fourth.”
The other four KU scorers included junior Chris Melgares (26:04.4) in 17th, sophomore Michael Melgares (26:06.6) finishing 19th, sophomore Dylan Hodgson (26:13.6) placing 22nd and senior Daniel Koech (26:33.6), who came in 32nd overall.
Their efforts resulted in 104 points and a fourth-place finish. This was the fourth time in the past five years that the men finished among the top-five in the team standings.
While there were many positive takeaways for the Jayhawks at the Big 12 Championship, they know there is still a lot of business to take care of before the season is over.
“I’m happy, but I know we still have a lot to do as a team,” Lokedi said. “This is just the beginning. We have more to do and we have more to work on. We must look forward and think about what lies ahead of us.”
The Kansas cross country teams will now shift their attention to the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. The meet will be held on Friday, Nov. 11 in Iowa City, Iowa.
“For the men, the race will become a 10K versus an 8K. Hopefully we can step up and continue to do well,” Redwine concluded. “On the women’s side, we simply have to get better. If we want to make it to the NCAA Championships as a team, we have to do better.”
The NCAA Midwest Regional Championships will kick off with the women’s 6K race at 11 a.m., followed by the men’s 10K at noon.
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