Jayhawk cross country prepares for intense race at the Pre-National Invitational

Pre-National Invitational
Date Saturday, October 15
Time Women’s Blue (6K) – 10 a.m. (CT)
Men’s Blue (8K) – 10:35 a.m. (CT)
Women’s White (6K) – 11:15 a.m. (CT)
Men’s White (8K) – 11:50 a.m. (CT)
Women’s Open (6K) – 12:30 p.m. (CT)
Men’s Open (8K) – 1:05 p.m. (CT)
Location Terre Haute, Ind.
Stadium LaVern Gibson Championship Course
Notes 8K Map (Men)  |  6K Map (Women)
Stats Record Timing
Video FloTrack ($)
Twitter @KansasXC | #kuxc
Instagram @KUTrack | #kuxc

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, to compete in the 2016 Pre-National Invitation this Saturday, Oct. 15. This will be the Jayhawks’ third meet of the year and they will face their toughest competition yet with 80 other teams racing, including 11 of the nation’s top-25 teams on the men’s side and 10 top-30 teams on the women’s side.
“There’s going to be a lot of really good teams that are there at this meet,” assistant cross country coach Michael Whittlesey said. “We have to focus on putting ourselves in the right pack because it becomes such a big pack and sometimes it’s hard to recognize if you’re in the right spot. But if we run better as a pack, we’ll be able to have that focus. Gearing up from the middle of the race and progressively attacking at that point is going to be a huge key to our success.”
The Jayhawks have not competed in two weeks, but they have taken this time to increase the level of intensity during practices in preparation for the championship stretch of the season.
“The biggest thing that we’ve started to do is we’ve really upped the intensity,” Whittlesey said. “That was kind of the plan all along, to have a strength phase through all of September and really start picking up the intensity in October. We’ve really focused on both the intensity of the work, but also the mental intensity and getting ready for the major part of the season.”
Sophomore All-American Sharon Lokedi is expected to lead the women’s pack through the 6K race at LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course. She is coming off of a fourth-place finish at the Rim Rock Classic, where she clocked a time of 20:37.7. In that race, Lokedi separated herself from the Kansas pack early on. This weekend, the women are hoping pack together better and and stay closer to Lokedi.
“With what we had been doing with the intensity not as high, I don’t think we were as prepared to hurt as much as required when you’re racing,” Whittlesey said. “So we’ve been practicing attacking the front a lot harder and also trying to stretch our level of intensity and level of spread to put people in a position where they have to extend themselves. We’re refocused and reenergized.”
The men’s team plans to rely on its depth in order to be successful this weekend. Junior Chris Melgares led the Jayhawks at the Rim Rock Classic, placing sixth overall, but there are multiple runners who could slide into that leading role. 
“Chris has been looking great, but to be honest I think almost anyone could be our number one runner. I think we’ve got six guys that on any given day could have a better day than everybody else. It’s that deep of a team,” Whittlesey said. “We have to get out there as a pack because we have six or seven guys who can run together. It’s key that we get out and stay together through three miles. But as we say, that doesn’t mean people have to slow down, it means that people have to make sure they’re staying with the front of our pack.”
With Fall Break ending earlier this week, the Jayhawks feel well-prepared.
“We’ve been here the whole time (during break), so it helps with our hard workouts because they were able to spend a lot of time recovering and resting up,” Whittlesey concluded. “We’re not leaving until later on Thursday, but Friday morning we’ll go see the course, then we’ll have a study hall and spend that night getting refocused for the race. So there will be plenty of time to concentrate, but not be overly anxious about the meet.”
There will be a total of six races as part of the Pre-National Invitational on Saturday. Kicking off the day will be the women’s 6K ‘blue’ race at 10 a.m. (CT), followed by the men’s 8K ‘blue’ race at 10:35 a.m. The ‘white’ races will start at 11:15 a.m. (CT) for the women and 11:50 a.m., for the men. Closing the day will be the women’s and men’s ‘open’ races at 12:30 p.m. (CT) and 1:05 p.m., respectively.
Following the Pre-National Invitational, the Jayhawks will head to Lubbock, Texas for the Big 12 Championship on Saturday, Oct. 29. The women’s 6K race will start at 10 a.m. (CT), while the men will begin their 8K race at 11 a.m. (CT).
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