Lokedi paces Jayhawks at Regionals, qualifies for NCAA Championships
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the second-consecutive season, sophomore Sharon Lokedi turned in a top-three performance at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships hosted by the University of Iowa Friday at Ashton Cross Country Course. Lokedi, who claimed second overall, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship meet to be held next weekend. The performance also helped lead the women’s team to a fifth-place finish, the squad’s second-straight top-five finish at the Midwest Championship. The Jayhawk men ran to an eighth-place team finish and were paced by sophomore Michael Melgares, who claimed 32nd.
“I’m really happy with how our top-three women ran today,” said head coach Stanley Redwine following the race. “We always talk about giving a total team effort and I thought that effort was there for the majority of the race. There was a little more space between our third and fourth runners than we would have liked. The goal coming into the day was to get the team to the National meet so hopefully the performance will be good enough to get the team an at-large spot. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
In what proved to be another stellar outing, Lokedi once again cemented herself as one of the top runners in the Region. The sophomore out of Eldoret, Kenya was at the front from start to finish, dueling with Missouri junior Karissa Schwiezer for much of the 6,000-meter race. The two separated themselves from the rest of the pack midway through the trek and ran neck-and-neck for the majority of the remaining three kilometers.
Schweizer managed to save just enough for a strong closing kick down the final 400 meters, pulling in front of Lokedi for good and claiming the Regional victory. The Jayhawk sophomore crossed the finish six seconds later, posting a final time of 20:00.7 for the runner-up finish.
Lokedi’s performance marked the best by a KU female at an NCAA Regional race since Melissa Swartz also tallied a second-place finish at the meet in 1994. She also earned an automatic bid to her second-straight NCAA Championship race to be held next weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Seniors Hannah Richardson and Malika Baker also saw strong performances, both placing in the top-20. Richardson matched her career-best regional finish with her 11th-place finish. The Kirkwood, Missouri product completed the 6K loop in 20:30.2. Malika Baker came in the best finish of her career at the Midwest Championships, coming across in 19th with her time of 20:44.2.
The finish earned Lokedi, Richardson and Baker All-Region honors, the first time in the Stanley Redwine era (since 2000), three Kansas women have claimed All-Region accolades.
Rounding out the top-five for the women scorers were junior Lydia Saggau (21:16.4) in 48th and junior Hannah Dimmick (21:40.5) in 76th. The women collected 154 points, earning them fifth-place out of 33 teams.
Sophomore Michael Melgares led the KU men with his 32nd-place finish Friday in Iowa City.
The men had the challenge of tackling their longest race of the season and they ended up placing in the top-10 and tallied 233 points, finishing eighth as a team. Junior Chris Melgares started out as the lead Jayhawk and, through the 6K mark, he and senior James Hampton were both running inside the top-20 of the 194-person field.
Over the final 1,000 meters, it was the younger Melgares brother, Michael, who came up with the strong closing kick to come in as the Jayhawks’ top finisher. Michael Melgares traversed the 10K course in a time of 31:00.3, good for a 32nd-place finish. This was the first time in his career that the younger Melgares has been the top KU runner in a meet.
Chris Melgares crossed the finish line shortly after, clinching 35th place with a time of 31:03.1. Hampton ran the 10K in 31:17.3, placing just inside the top-50 at 49th overall.
The other two Kansas scorers on the men’s side included sophomore Dylan Hodgson (31:32.6), placing 60th and senior Daniel Koech, who finished 65th clocking a time of 31:35.2.
“I think the men’s team just made an aggressive mistake today and it ended up costing them,” said Redwine. “If you look at the early splits, they were trying to run up with the leaders and, in a race of this distance, that’s going to hurt you in the end. Mistakes will happen and I’d always rather our runners make aggressive mistakes than the alternative, but we were looking for a better finish from the men today and it just didn’t happen.”
The Jayhawk women will now wait to see if they can earn an at-large bid to next weekend’s National Championship meet. The NCAA Championships will take place next Saturday, Nov. 19, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Lokedi and possibly her teammates will compete in the women’s 6K race that kicks off at 10 a.m. (CT).
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