Even though Kansas cross country coach Stanley Redwine thinks the Jayhawks made significant strides in 2018, Redwine said the team still has plenty of room to grow.
“I thought our season was pretty good last year, but I think if you want to win, you have to be great,” Redwine said. “That’s what we need to be striving for.”
In 2018, the KU men finished fourth in the Big 12 and sixth at the NCAA Midwest Regional, while the women’s team finished third and seventh.
With that in mind and the team first reporting Wednesday, Redwine is “anxious” to see what his runners took away from last season and over the summer.
“I’m excited to see all of them at this point,” Redwine said. “We want some of them to step up and make an immediate (impact) on the team as we had last year. That’s what we’re looking for.”
On the men’s side, Redwine said he’ll look to senior Dylan Hodgson and junior Ben Butler to step up into larger leadership roles. Hodgson finished 13th (24:17.8) at the Big 12 championship and 29th (31:42.4) at the Midwest Regional last season, while Butler finished 12th (24:14.8) and 34th (31:46.9), respectively.
Along with those two leading the way, Redwine also wants to see the men’s team work together more during races to improve team placing at larger meets.
“In order for us to progress well as a team, there needs to be a little bit more unity there,” Redwine said. “But at the same time, in order for us to be competitive at the meets like that, we have to run as a team more, run well as a pack together throughout the race.”
On the women’s side, one loss stands above the rest: Sharon Lokedi.
“I mean, there is no way to replace Sharon,” Redwine said.
Lokedi, a two-time All-American in cross country and the KU outdoor track and field record holder in the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter runs, left her mark during her four years as a Jayhawk. In 2018, Lokedi finished fifth (20:17.4) at the Big 12 championships, second (20:23.0) at the Midwest Regional and 45th (20:40.8) at the NCAA championships.
“But at the same time, it’s an opportunity for the rest of the team to step up,” Redwine said. “Someone else can say, ‘Hey, it’s my turn to be Sharon’ and be aggressive with it and be competitive with it. If the team takes that aspect, then I think we’ll be better.”
Two runners Redwine expects to step up are sophomores Ally Ryan and McKenzie Wilks, who both made immediate impacts last season. Ryan finished 13th (20:55.1) at the Big 12 championships and 41st (21:28.3) at the Midwest Regional, while Wilks finished 20th (21:05.9) and 36th (21:25.6), respectively.
“They’re our leaders now,” Redwine said. “They were good last year, stayed great throughout the season and we’re looking forward to that this year.”
Amidst the speculation, though, Redwine said it will come down to execution and where KU stands in the Big 12 and beyond.
“It’s not how much better we’ve gotten ourselves, but it’s also how much better we’ve gotten compared to our competition,” Redwine said. “So we just need to know that when we step out there, there is an expectation and there is a goal every time we race.”
KU will open up the season at the Bob Timmons Classic at Rim Rock Farms on Saturday, Aug. 31.
2019 Kansas Cross Country Schedule
Aug. 31 - Bob Timmons Classic, 9 a.m.
Oct. 5 - Rim Rock Classic, 9 a.m.
Oct. 19 - Pre-National Invitational,TBA
Nov. 15 - NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, TBA
Nov. 23 - NCAA Championships, TBA