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Archive for Friday, October 27, 2006

League returns to Kansas

Big 12 championships today at Rim Rock

October 27, 2006

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Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference 11 years ago, Lawrence never has played host to a conference championship - yet Topeka was the site of the Big 12 Cross Country Championship in 2004 at Stateland Cross Country Course.

Today, the cross country championship returns to Kansas, hosted this time by Lawrence's Rim Rock Farm.

"We are excited to host the meet. It's an opportunity for the fans to see us compete at home," KU coach Stanley Redwine said. "In cross country, they get to see us at the beginning of the year when everyone is not in the best shape. Hopefully now everyone is in the best condition and ready to go."

Rim Rock finally will get to showcase its prestige at a larger level after playing host to many state high school cross country races and the annual Rim Rock Cross Country Classic that draws high school runners from throughout the Midwest.

"There's been no other course where you see the silhouettes or the hills and just the combination of everything," Redwine said. "I think it's a great course. I would rank it as one of the top five courses in the U.S. as far as pure cross country courses. It's challenging, probably unlike any other course. It will be fun."

The men's team will sport two-time defending conference champion Benson Chesang - who will attempt to tie the Big 12 record for consecutive titles held by Colorado's Jorge Torres, who won three straight from 2000-2002.

"We're going to put a talented team out on this course," Paul Hefferon said following the Bob Timmons Invitational in September. "And we know it really well and ... we know how to run this course better than anyone else in the country."

Hopes are high for the men's team - whice is currently rank No. 19 in the USTFCCCA National Poll - to detrhone Colorado of the team title. The Buffs have won all 10 conference titles since 1996.

"But this year they have to remember they are in Lawrence - at KU," said Chesang, who last ran Rim Rock competitively his freshman year at KU with a second-place finish at the Bob Timmons Invitational. "We have a strong team this year. We might give them a challenge."

The chance to race at home comes at a great time for the cross country program, as both squads are coming off one of their best finishes in conference a year ago in Waco, Texas.

The third-place finish - combining Chesang's championship run with Colby Wissel's 10th-place finish and Hefferon's 13th-place finish - was the best for a KU men's team since the inception of the Big 12 Conference.

The women's eighth-place finish was the second-best finish for the team having finished sixth in 2002 and 2003.

"We want to place a lot higher in conference than we have in the past," Lisa Morrisey said. "We could definitely be in the top seven or the top half. That's my goal, and I think that's everyone's goal for the team, too. Hopefully we all run well."

The women's race is scheduled to kick off the event at 10 a.m. with the men's race following at 11 a.m.

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