Lokedi wins back-to-back Big 12 titles
ROUND ROCK, Texas – For the second time in as many years, Kansas junior Sharon Lokedi won the Big 12 Championship women’s cross country individual title, becoming just the fourth female in conference history to win multiple championships. Lokedi’s performance helped the Kansas women’s team to a sixth-place finish, while the Jayhawk men placed seventh against conference competition.
Lokedi, a junior from Eldoret, Kenya, is the first Big 12 female to repeat as champion since Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech, who won three-straight titles from 2006-08. She also became the ninth Kansas cross country runner and first female to win multiple conference titles, with Benson Chesang the last to do so in 2004 and 2005.
Lokedi kept herself in great position the entire race, leaving no doubt that she would have a chance to repeat, as she led at the 2K and 4K checkpoints. Baylor’s Lindsey Bradley stayed tight the majority of the race, but a powerful final 2K from Lokedi emphatically sealed the win. She pulled away with ease and seemed to be able to relax and run free in the final 100 meters to soak in the sights of her second-straight title, finishing with a time of 20:00.5.
“I’m happy,” Lokedi said when describing the feeling of winning back-to-back championships. “It’s not easy, but you keep working and have to keep believing in yourself and trusting you can do it. I kept telling myself, ‘Sharon, keep going, you’ve got it. Just relax and trust in yourself. Believe you can do it.'”
Behind Lokedi with another strong performance for the Jayhawks was junior Alaina Schroeder, who placed 11th to earn All-Big 12 honors. Prior to Saturday’s meet, assistant cross country coach Michael Whittlesey said Schroeder’s performance would be a huge factor in the women’s team success.
“I’m just so happy for Sharon, she works really, really hard,” Whittlesey said. “You want good things for somebody who works that hard and has that type of heart, so I’m really pleased for her and for Alaina as well. She did a great job of being able to make all-conference.”
Schroeder crossed the line at 20:40.2, followed by Hannah Dimmick in 38th with a time of 21:30.6. Lauren Harrell and Riley Cooney rounded out the scoring for the Kansas women, finishing 50th (21:50.5) and 58th (22:12.5), respectively, to give the Jayhawk women a team score of 147.
“The pace went a lot faster than we had anticipated across the board in the women’s race,” Whittlesey said. “Sharon and Alaina did a great job. We needed to pack up our other three much better earlier on. We had two together at one spot and another two further back. We really needed those four together to keep Hannah company throughout the entire race and give Lauren someone to run with. We needed to execute that a little bit better and we could’ve got a couple spots up on the team results if we did that.”
Iowa State won the women’s race, repeating as team champions and winning their sixth title in seven years. The surprise of the day was in the men’s race, where the Cyclones took the team title as well, snapping Oklahoma State’s nine-year title run.
The Kansas men finished with a team score of 189, coming in ahead of Oklahoma (194) and TCU (295) in the team standings.
Sophomore Bryce Richards was the Kansas men’s top finisher, placing 40th overall with a time of 25:03.5. Fellow sophomore Avery Hale followed Richards with a time of 25:11.1 to place 42nd as the second Jayhawk to cross the finish line. Redshirt freshman Bryce Hoppel was the third runner donning the Crimson and Blue to cross the line, clocking in at 25:11.7 to place 45th.
Junior Michael Melgares led the Kansas men through the first 2K checkpoint, but fell back in the pack later in the race after battling a bit of illness earlier in the week. He ultimately finished 47th overall with a time of 25:16.8. Senior Carson Vickroy rounded out the scoring for the Jayhawks with a 49th-place finish at 25:18.3.
“The men did a decent job in the first half of the race, we just didn’t move like we talked about we needed to move over the second half of the race,” Whittlesey said. “We were in the group but we just didn’t move with the group, so we were about ten spots per person back from where we needed to be to have the race I thought we could’ve had.”
Kansas will next compete at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship, hosted by Big 12 Champions Iowa State in Ames, Iowa on Friday, November 10. The meet is scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m. at the ISU Cross Country Course.