LAWRENCE, Kan. – After strong showings at last week’s Rim Rock Classic, the Kansas cross country teams will be back in action at the Haskell Invitational Saturday, Oct. 6. The annual meet, hosted by nearby Haskell Indian Nations University, will be held at the campus course, Gentle Rolling Hills.
Many of the Jayhawks participating in this weekend’s race will be donning the Crimson and Blue for the first time this season which should provide ample opportunities to move up among their team ranks. This includes redshirt junior Natalie Becker, who will be competing in her first race of the season after coming back from injury.
“It will be good to get Natalie Becker back in the Blue and running for KU this weekend,” said cross country assistant coach Michael Whittlesey. “This race will be good for her to get her feet wet and gain some confidence before we head to the Wisconsin meet. Getting her back will really help out our depth.”
This weekend Becker will be joined by sophomore Ragan Allen and redshirt freshman Sara Siewald, who have both proven themselves to be among the top runners for the women’s team in the early portion of the 2012 campaign. The three, along with several other Jayhawks, will each look to take home their first career individual titles this weekend.
“On the women’s side we need to keep working on getting our front five closer together,” explained Whittlesey. “Having a decent amount of experience heading into the Wisconsin meet will be key and this meet will really help their confidence moving forward.”
Five KU men will be representing the men’s squad on Saturday. Senior Ben Wilson, junior Javier Segura, sophomore Conner Day and redshirt freshmen Alex Galli and Logan Sloan will each try to move within the suddenly competitive top-seven of the Kansas men’s pack.
“We have some guys that we want to see keep working to break into that front 10,” Whittlesey said. “That’s the goal; for them to continue to gain the confidence they need by running at the front of this race and trying to win the race.”
The meet Saturday gives the Jayhawks a unique opportunity to run in front of their hometown fans for the third-consecutive meet this season. While the race isn’t technically a home meet for KU, there will certainly be a feel of a home course advantage. Four of the Jayhawks competing this weekend hail from communities near Lawrence and there are sure to be dozens of family members and friends rooting them on.
The Haskell Invitational means the Jayhawks are nearing the halfway point of the 2012 campaign and will be a good opportunity for the coaches to reflect on the progress the team has made thus far in the season and the improvements that are still needed as the teams head into the larger, more challenging meets.
“The men’s team’s confidence level is great right now coming off the win last weekend,” Whittlesey concluded. “We have a gap from one to seven right now that most teams would love to have from one to five. Everybody has bought into themselves and bought into the team. We still have some major meets coming up and we just need to continue executing like we did the first portion of the season.”
The women’s 5K race is set to begin at 9:15 a.m., Saturday morning while the men’s 8K race will start at 9:45 a.m. For results and a full recap of the day’s events log on to kuathletics.com.
KU’s men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Madison, Wis., for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 12. The competition is projected to be the stiffest of the season and will provide both teams with chances to go up against the nation’s top teams before postseason races begin. The meet will begin with the women’s 6K race at noon, and will be followed by the men’s 8K at 12:40 p.m.