The Kansas State Cross Country teams begin their season this Saturday when the Wildcats participate in the JK Gold Classic in Augusta at 9 a.m.
Last season, the Wildcat men competed at the JK Gold Classic and split their duals, defeating Wichita State, but falling to UMKC. The Wildcat women won their duals against both Wichita State and UMKC.
Both cross country teams will return members from last season, as well as bring in new members who are ready to leave their mark.
The K-State women return three seniors and three sophomores, while bringing in five freshmen runners.
Senior Martina Tresch, who placed 47th in the NCAA Championships last season, is expected to help lead the Wildcat women back to the NCAA Championships.
The Wildcat men, on the other hand, are in a rebuilding phase, bringing in seven new freshmen while returning two seniors and two sophomores.
Senior runners Kyle Hanson and Ryan Hershner are looking to make a big impact at the meets, as well as mentoring the new runners.
K-State head coach Mike Smith expects his team to use the JK Gold Classic as a meet to prepare for the rest of the upcoming season.
“It’s more of a scrimmage meet for us because it’s shorter than our normal distance—it’s a 4K meet for the women and a 6K meet for the men,” Smith said. “We’re focused on the process of getting started with the year and beginning to race. This meet will help shake the rust off of our team.”
This Saturday, the Wildcats will compete against host team Wichita State, a group of NAIA schools, as well as a group of junior colleges. Coach Smith is looking for two sophomores on the women’s side and one sophomore on the men’s side to perform well.
“There will be a significant difference in the performance of Laura Galvan,” Smith said. “She’s taken a big step forward, as well as Erika Schiller. Given the way they’ve trained, we expect them to be our leaders.
“On the men’s side, Fernando Roman has been our best athlete in practice and should help us at the front.”
Smith is excited about having more depth on the men’s team than in years past and hopes this race will help the freshmen get used to cross country in college.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do with more bodies,” Smith said. “The depth is young so I would expect there to be a little bit of an adjustment. They’re used to running a 5K—this is a 6K—they’ll have to race a lot harder than they did in high school.”
Out of the teams competing in the meet, Smith expects Wichita State to be the most competitive.
“On the men’s side, Wichita State is similar, so it should be close between Kansas State and Wichita State,” he said. “On the women’s side, we’ve been able to win the meet with fewer runners.
“We have no idea what Wichita State’s women’s team is like. Our focus is just on racing the runners we have who are ready to race and looking ahead to the season.”
In the Wildcats’ final team race last season at the Midwest Regional Championships, the women finished 14th and the men finished 22nd.
After the JK Gold Classic, the Wildcats’ next meet will be at the Woody Greeno Invitational Sept. 15 in Lincoln, Neb.