Throughout Sharon Lokedi’s freshman cross country season at Kansas University, unwavering trust in training from head coach Stanley Redwine and assistant Michael Whittlesey has propelled her to success in each race.
The KU coaching staff was the first group of people that Lokedi thanked after a third-place finish Friday at the NCAA Midwest Regional at Rim Rock Farm.
“I’m so happy for my coaches,” said Lokedi, who clocked in with a 6,000-meter time of 20:14.9. “They have been supporting me all the way through and have been motivating by telling me not to let up. I’m so happy for them. They trusted in me.”
The third-place finished earned Lokedi an automatic individual-qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships, which will take place Nov. 21 at E.P. “Tom Sawyer” State Park in Louisville, Kentucky.
“We’re really excited for what she did,” Redwine said. “She competed really well today. The goal was to go out and try to qualify for the NCAA, and she did it.”
Lokedi led the KU women’s squad to a fifth-place finish. The Jayhawks lost a head-to-head tiebreaker with Tulsa for fourth with 151 points.
“The new rule is it goes person-for-person,” Redwine said. “First vs. first, second vs. second, and based on that, we lost, 3-2. It just didn’t go our way on that. That doesn’t take anything away from the effort our athletes gave today, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Sophomore Lydia Saggau also cracked the top 25 in 24th place with a time of 20:57.3. Sisters Nashia and Malika Baker finished in 32nd and 33rd, respectively, and senior Kelli McKenna placed 60th to round out KU’s top five.
Outside of McKenna, the Jayhawks’ top seven will all return next year, which leaves Redwine excited for what is to come.
“There’s promise for the team,” Redwine said. “That’s one thing that we can walk away from, it’s hunger. Maybe we didn’t finish quite exactly where we wanted to today, but we’ll be hungry enough to continue to do better next year.”
No. 13 Oklahoma State won the women’s team title with 51 points. OSU and runner-up No. 16 Iowa State earned automatic team-qualifying berths to the NCAA Championships.
Landes leads KU men
KU senior Evan Landes earned a ninth-place finish in the men’s 10K in his final race at Rim Rock Farm. Landes remained with the front pack for the first five miles, which he said was key to reaching a top-10 finish.
“I just kind of got in there and got my position toward the front, and that was the plan just so I could try to relax and work off of those front guys and react to any moves they made,” Landes said. “I did that for the most part. The last 2K was really a bear. (I was) falling apart and just really hanging on there.”
The Mulvane native crossed the finish line in 30:13.2, but might be on the outside looking in for an at-large individual bid to the NCAAs. The top four individuals not on the top two teams earn automatic berths, and Landes was eighth out of the runners on non-qualifying squads.
“I lost a couple of spots in that last 1,000,” Landes said. “I might be the odd man sitting out at nationals, but hopefully I’ll make it in. I competed about as well as I could have hoped to compete.”
Landes will have to wait on the results from the other regional meets to be finalized to see if he could sneak in with an at-large individual bid.
Close behind Landes was fellow senior Jacob Morgan, who placed 21st with a time of 30:28.6. The senior duo paced the Jayhawks to a seventh-place finish with 168 points.
“I thought we were better than a seventh-place team, and unfortunately, that’s what we were today,” Redwine said. “We just have to figure out what happened and get better from there.”
No. 6 Oklahoma State completed the regional sweep by claiming the men’s title with 59 points. Minnesota will join the Cowboys at the NCAA Championships after the Golden Gophers edged Oklahoma for second place.