Lokedi runs to historic fifth place finish at NCAA Championships
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. –Sophomore Sharon Lokedi turned in the best performance by a KU runner at the NCAA Championships in over 50 years as the Jayhawk finished fifth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships Saturday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course. Lokedi’s performance earned her All-America honors for the second-straight season and made her the first two-time All-American in the history of the Kansas women’s program.
On a cold and blustery morning in western Indiana, Lokedi went toe-to-toe with a collection of the nation’s best distance runners. Coming off a 10th-place finish in the event last year, an All-American campaign on the track in the winter and spring and a Big 12 cross country title last month, Lokedi was no stranger to the big stage and her experience showed in the race Saturday.
“When it’s cold and windy like it was today, you never know what might happen in a race like this,” said Lokedi following the race. “So my plan was to just stay up at the front, stay with the leaders and be ready for anything. I just wanted to hang in there as long as possible and I think I did that. It was a good race.”
Lokedi clocked in with a 6K time of 19:52.2.As she had done in each of her races over her first two years as a Jayhawk, Lokedi ran with the lead pack from the starting gun. The Eldoret, Kenya native was never more than two strides back from the front runner during the first 4,000 meters of the 6K loop. At the 2K check point, she sat seventh and remained up at the front when she passed the 4K marker, sitting in third place overall.
The pace quickened and the front runners began to spread out during the home stretch of the race, but Lokedi did well to keep pace and fought through the harsh head wind over the waning moments of the race. The sophomore sprinted down the closing chute and held off several strong kicks from other runners to cross the finish with a final time of 19:52.2, just over 10 seconds behind the winner.
“There were so many people that have helped me get here,” Lokedi said. “So this isn’t just for me. All the people that came and cheered me on today, my coaches, everyone. I was just happy to be able to do this for them.”
Lokedi nabbed a fifth place finish, the best ever by a Kansas female at the NCAA race, topping her 10th-place finish from a year ago. Her race also marked the best outing by a Jayhawk – male or female – since John Lawson won the individual title in 1965.
Lokedi and the rest of the Jayhawks will now transition to the indoor track season, set to kick off in just two weeks. The first meet is the Bob Timmons Challenge on Friday, Dec. 2 at the Anschutz Sports Pavilion in Lawrence, Kansas.
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