It did not take long for former Free State High standout Kyra Kilwein to make her mark at the college level.
Running in the first collegiate cross country race, Kilwein finished fourth overall (19:28.44) and helped lead the KU women to the team title on Saturday at the Bob Timmons Classic at Rim Rock Farm.
For Kilwein, Saturday’s race played out as a sweet surprise and a wonderful start to a promising career.
“I had no clue where I was going to place,” she said. “I just planned to run as strong as I could and do what the coach asked me to do to help the team.”
Finishing fourth certainly helped, as the Jayhawks blew away the competition and won the team title by nearly 60 points.
So far, Kilwein said her adjustment to college has been a smooth one. She already has bonded with her teammates and has taken serious advantage of the vast training resources available at KU to make herself stronger, faster and more sound in the stamina department.
“I love it,” Kilwein said. “The team is great, the girls are so nice and we have a great coach.”
Despite being in his first year, KU coach Michael Whittlesey said he was not surprised by what he saw from Kilwein.
“Not at all,” he said. “Her experience on this course helps her and she’s been working extremely hard since we started. I expected her to be right up there.”
Kilwein said her familiarity with the Rim Rock course was a big factor in her Top 5 finish, even if she was running a 5K as opposed to the 4K races she ran with the Firebirds.
“It did help since I ran here so many times in high school,” Kilwein said. “It was a little bit different, being a little longer, but I knew where to go and what to expect and that helped.”
Although Kilwein’s fast start leaves little room for improvement in terms of moving her way up in the individual standings, Whittlesey said he expects to see more great things from Kilwein in the future.
“I love her drive and I love her competitiveness,” he said. “She will make the most of her ability and, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”