MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State cross country teams open their 2005 season this Saturday, Sept. 3 as the Wildcats travel to RAFT Golf Course in Augusta, Kansas to participate in the Wichita State Gold Classic. The meet begins at 10 a.m. with the women’s 5K race, followed by the men’s 4-mile race at 10:45 a.m.
Second year head coach Michael Smith sees the meet as a good opportunity for his young runners.
“This meet will help our runners get re-acclimated to racing. Most of these athletes haven’t raced competitively since the Big 12 track championships or for their high schools,” commented Smith. “This early meet will be a good opportunity to get focused and back into racing.”
"With the loss of All-American and All-Big 12 performer Mathew Chesang, the men's team will look to a combination of seasoned veterans and fresh faces to lead the pack. One of the top runners returning for the Wildcats is senior Joe Moore, who was a top two K-State finisher five times last season, including a fifth place finish at the Bob Timmons Invitational. Moore's 2004 season also included a 45th place finish at the Big 12 Championships and a 55th place finish at the Midwest Regionals.
Behind Moore, coach Smith has great expectations for his group of male harriers. Seniors Christian Smith and Alex Sawyer will make a push for two of the top spots on the team. Along with the returnees, some fresh faces could make early impacts for the Wildcats. Among these faces are freshmen Alex Umberger, a Maize, Kansas native, and Casey Johnson, a product of De Soto High School.
"If you look at our roster, it's loaded with young people on it. We have two talented freshmen in Alex Umberger and Casey Johnson," said Smith. "They will have to adapt to collegiate racing, but could help us in our top five."
With nine of their ten runners being underclassmen, the 2005 K-State women's cross country team will look to their new crop of talented runners to lead the way. Freshmen Jana Gwinn, a Blue Valley North product, and Liliani Mendez, from Dorado, Puerto Rico could set the pace for this young team. Smith hopes both of these women can make an impact early in the season.
"Jana Gwinn is a cross country state champion and runner-up last year. When she's on, she's good. She’s one of the better cross country prospects to come out of the state in recent years. She's very good in cross country, and I think down the road she'll have a lot of ability. Liliani Mendez is the junior national record holder in the 3000 meters in Puerto Rico. I would hope that those two (Gwinn and Mendez) run in our top five.”
Senior Christina Lara and sophomore Stephanie Lavin will add valuable experience and leadership to the young group. Both runners competed in a number of races last season including the Big 12 Championships and Midwest Regionals.
Both teams will run split squads at the Wichita State Gold Classic this weekend, and the K-State/KU dual next Friday, Sept. 9. Full line-ups should be expected beginning at the Woody Greeno Invitational, Sept. 17, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Results from the Wichita State Gold Classic will be posted at www.k-statesports.com as soon as they become available.