Kansas University freshman cross country runner Sharon Lokedi made an immediate impact in her first collegiate race, as she won the Rim Rock Classic and helped the Jayhawks to a women’s team title.
Lokedi clocked in at 20:42.4 for 6,000 meters, edging runner-up Cali Roper from Rice by six seconds.
“I knew there was a girl from Rice, and what I heard from my teammates, they said she was good, and it (Rice) was a good team,” Lokedi said. “I didn’t want to put down my team, and I said from the beginning to the end, I’m going to fight for it, and I’m going for it.”
The KU freshman from Eldoret, Kenya, led a large pack of Jayhawks up front and made a move at the three-mile mark to surge into the lead. Her teammates remained tightly packed together throughout, as juniors Malika Baker, Courtney Coppinger, Jennifer Angles and Nashia Baker and senior Kelli McKenna placed fifth through ninth, respectively, to give Kansas a winning team total of 23 points.
“It’s always good to see KU up front,” KU coach Stanley Redwine said, “but I think the main thing is that it shows you that the ladies have been training really well.”
Redwine saw more of the same in the men’s 8,000-meter race, with KU seniors Evan Landes and Jacob Morgan taking the top two spots. The KU men finished second to Iowa State.
After missing the 2014 cross country season due to a sacral stress reaction, Landes showed no signs of rust on his way to a winning time of 23:55.6.
“It’s my senior year, so I just kind of decided to not worry about all of the tertiary stuff and just focus on training and racing, basically,” Landes said. “I felt great throughout. Obviously the last two miles really hurt making a big surge there. It’s great to be out here.”
Landes was joined by Morgan and Southern Illinois’ Oscar Medina in the top three through three miles, but found an extra burst in the final two miles to beat out Morgan by 14 seconds.
“The big move we planned on making was after cemetery hill, trying to stretch it out after that and kind of make some people hurt a little bit,” Landes said of his and Morgan’s race strategy. “That worked out well. We ended up doing that and then just go for it the last mile and each man for himself really then.”
A 29-second gap between Morgan and KU’s No. 3 runner, Dylan Hodgson, allowed Iowa State to pack up and claim the team championship with 35 points. The Cyclones clipped the second-place Jayhawks by 12 points, but Landes was encouraged by the performances of KU’s younger runners.
“I’ve been really impressed with that freshmen class — Dylan Hodgson, Michael Melgares — those guys are really crushing it right now, doing things that none of us were doing as freshmen,” Landes said.
Saturday’s performances from the Kansas men and women gave Redwine a lot of confidence going forward into the team’s next race, Oct. 17 at Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. The Jayhawks could add some more experience in their lead pack on the women’s side in two weeks, as they were without junior Hannah Richardson and sophomore Lydia Saggau on Saturday.
“(Richardson) is continuing to train and get better, same with Lydia,” Redwine said. “I think once we get those two back running with the team, we should be really deep.”
Rim Rock Classic
Saturday at Rim Rock Farm
Men’s Division I team scores – Iowa State 35, Kansas 47, Nebraska 71, Southern Illinois 114, Rice 121, Cal-St. Fullerton 173, New Mexico St. 183, Grand Canyon 198, Oral Roberts 270.
College Men’s team scores – Nebraska-Kearney 31, Central College 41, Bacone 57, Highland CC 130, MidAmerica Nazarene 135.
Kansas results (8K) – 1. Evan Landes, 23:55.6; 2. Jacob Morgan, 24.09.5; 14. Dylan Hodgson, 24:38.0; 15. James Hampton, 24:40.4; 19. Chris Melgares, 24:47.9; 26. Daniel Koech, 24:59.7; 28. Michael Melgares, 25:02.0; 31. Jacob Ryan, 25:06.8; 41. Ben Burchstead, 25:26.7; 47. Carson Vickroy, 25:34.3; 52. Adel Yoonis, 25:45.4; 59. Cain Hassim (Unattached), 25:59.0; 62. Markeen Caine, 26:03.3; 74. Brandon Bernal, 26:19.4; 75. Bryce Richards (Unattached), 26:25.6; 76. Ben Brownlee, 26:26.2; 103. Ryan Liston (Unattached), 27:31.5.
Women’s Division I team scores – Kansas 23, Rice 50, Grand Canyon 104, Nebraska 105, Cal-St. Fullerton 109, New Mexico St. 175, Southern Illinois 192.
College Women’s team scores – Nebraska-Kearney 33, Central College 48, MidAmerica Nazarene 78, Rockhurst 87, Southeastern Oklahoma 120.
Kansas results (6K) – 1. Sharon Lokedi, 20:42.4; 5. Malika Baker, 21:28.2; 6. Courtney Coppinger, 21:32.0; 7. Jennifer Angles, 21:36.4; 8. Nashia Baker, 21:39.1; 9. Kelli McKenna, 21:43.5; 12. Alaina Schroeder, 21:55.4; 13. Hannah Dimmick, 21:58.1; 14. Kayla Funkenbusch (Unattached), 22:00.3; 15. Grace Morgan, 22:03.7; 16. Rachel Simon, 22:05.9; 24. Emily Downey (Unattached), 22:26.2; 27. Riley Cooney (Unattached), 22:29.3; 29. Julia Dury, 22:35.9; 46. Emmie Skopec (Unattached), 23:18.9.