Freshmen Impress at Season Opening Bob Timmons Classic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Freshman Tyler Yunk began his Kansas cross country career with a victory as he helped the KU men defeat Oral Roberts and UMKC in the dual meet Saturday morning at Rim Rock Farm. The Kansas women saw four true freshmen finish among the top-six finishers in the race and also tallied dual meet victories over ORU and UMKC.
With the KU men looking to open their season with a team victory for the 11th-straight season, it was up to a group of underclassmen to keep the impressive streak going. Of the nine Jayhawks to suit up in the Crimson and Blue Saturday, six were doing so for the first time.
From the starting gun the Jayhawks asserted their dominance, with the Kansas runners forming their pack in the overall lead through the first two kilometers. As the field began to spread out, Yunk and fellow freshman Alexandre Lavigne separated themselves from their teammates and put themselves into a comfortable lead at the 4K marker.
Yunk managed to hold a slight edge over his new teammate over the final quarter of the race, giving himself just enough separation to have a comfortable lead coming down the home stretch. The frosh crossed the finish and earned the victory in his first race at the collegiate level.
The Belvidere, Ill., native traversed the 6K course in 19:34.19 to outpace Oral Roberts’ David Batchelder by over four seconds. Lavigne held on for a third-place finish with his 6K time of 19:39.88.
Junior Brendan Soucie was the next Jayhawk to cross the finish as he posted a seventh-place finish with a time of 20:01.21, his fastest career 6K in and best ever finish at the Bob Timmons. Redshirt freshman Brendon Messerly claimed an 11th-place finish with his time of 20:15.14 and was the Jayhawks’ fourth finisher in his first race in the Kansas uniform.
Rounding out the KU men’s top seven finishers were junior Eric Lightfoot (20:31.81) in 15th, junior Conner Day (21:07.03) in 23rd and redshirt freshman Ben Brownlee (21:15.93) who posted a 26th-place finish.
Kansas defeated both Oral Roberts and UMKC in the double-dual scored meet. The Jayhawks took down the Golden Eagles 22-34 and defeated the Kangaroos 23-32.
Like the men’s race, the Kansas women’s team was full of fresh faces. Seven of the 11 Jayhawks which the Kansas coaches sent to the start line were seeing action in their first collegiate race, but it was those young runners that turned some heads in the 5K race.
The competition for the individual victory was decided within the first kilometer with Oral Roberts’ Samantha Watson breaking out to a huge lead during the early stages of the race. Several Jayhawks led the Kansas women’s pack in those early stages but it was two that took the reins and staked their spots in second and third for the majority of the race. True freshmen Jennifer Angles and Grace Morgan moved up the field and even made up some ground on leader Watson over the final half of the race.
Angles was able to keep just enough in the tank over the final kilometer to keep the edge over her teammate, Morgan. The Overland Park, Kan., native clocked in with a 5K time of 19:16.53 to take the runner-up spot behind Watson’s winning time of 18:34.88. The Lawrence native, Morgan, tallied the bronze medal finish with her time of 19:17.38.
Another true freshman, Lydia Saggau, was the next runner to come across the finish as she completed her 5K loop in 19:29.92.
The freshman theme did not end there with the Kansas woman as Nashia Baker, Julia Dury, Courtney Coppinger and Malika Baker rounded out the team’s top seven, all KU freshman who posted overall finishes within the top-13. Nashia Baker finished 6th in 19:32.94, Dury took 9th in 19:45.52, Coppinger was 10th in 19:48.30 and Malika Baker talled a 13th-place finish in 19:57.42.
The race marked the first time in the Stanley Redwine era that the women’s team’s top-seven finishers were all freshman.
The Kansas women outpaced both Oral Roberts and UMKC in the double-dual standings with KU upending ORU 20-43 and outscoring UMKC 17-43.
The Jayhawk men and women will now have over a month to prepare for their next meet, which will return them to their home course of Rim Rock Farm. The Rim Rock Classic is slated for Oct. 5 and will kick off at 9 a.m. with the men’s 8k, while the women’s 6K will begin at 10 a.m. Log on to KUAthletics.com to get a complete recap and results and follow on Twitter for live updates at @KansasXC.