|Senior James Wilson will look to help the
men’s squad to a top-two finish at the
Midwest Regional Friday.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a two-week layoff, the Kansas cross country teams will compete in their most important meet of the season on Friday, Nov. 14 at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Peoria, Illinois. The men’s team will look to return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006, while the women, who last qualified for nationals in 1994, will try to better last year’s fifth-place finish.
The Jayhawk men will see a strong group travel to Peoria this week, four who will be competing in their third regional meet. Jacob Morgan turned in a career and all-conference performance with his fifth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships two weeks ago in leading his team to a fifth-place finish. The junior will try to assure that the race will not be his last of the season and aims to be Kansas’ top finisher for the fourth time this year.
Senior James Wilson and freshman Chris Melgares hope to join Morgan as part of the Jayhawks’ lead pack. Each have been among KU’s top-three finishers in three outings this year. Wilson will be among the more experienced runners on the course as he will be running in his fourth regional race.
A group of underclassmen round out the men’s squad in Peoria. Sophomores Tyler Yunk and James Hampton have both been consistent finishers near the top of the men’s pack and will be joined by freshmen Juan del Azar and Carson Vickroy.
The men will have one new obstacle to face Friday, which they have yet to encounter in 2014. The group will be competing at the 10K distance for the first time this year, which is quite a change after running 8K races for the majority of the season. The starting gun for the 6.25 mile race is slated to go off at 1 p.m.
The KU women will once again send a young, but talented, group to the Regional as none of those scheduled to run this weekend have competed in more than one Midwest Regional Championship meet; however, five of those were a part of the squad that took fifth at the regional meet a year ago. Sophomore Nashia Baker has been the women’s leader in four meets this year and is a candidate to garner all-region honors for the first time in her KU career.
Joining Baker in their second appearance at the NCAA Regional are junior Hayley Francis and sophomores Kelli McKenna, Courtney Coppinger and Rachel Simon. A tight, well-placed pack will be a necessity if the Jayhawks want an opportunity to grab one of the coveted at-large bids for the NCAA Championships.
Freshmen Grace Morgan and Alaina Schroeder will each race in their first regional meet after both have put together solid debut seasons for the Jayhawks. Morgan was a winner already this season at the Bob Timmons Classic and Schroeder a finisher in the Jayhawks’ top-five in three of the four races in which she’s raced.
Thirty-one teams earn berths to the NCAA Championships, which will be run in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Saturday, Nov. 22. The top two teams from each of the nine regions automatically qualify for the Championships. Another 13 at-large teams will be added to the field and announced on Monday, Nov. 17. In addition, four individual competitors from each region, who are not part of qualifying teams, will also earn their way into the Championships field. These individuals must finish in the top 25 at the regional championship to qualify. Additionally, the NCAA committee will choose two individuals at large.
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