By Mark Janssen
Coaches who reach the "Big Dance" in men's basketball often say, "We're 'not' just happy being here."
Kansas State cross country coach Mike Smith, however, thinks otherwise heading into today's cross country run at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
The field includes 18 automatic qualifiers and 13 at-large entries. K-State, which ran fifth at the Midwest Regional two weeks ago, received the 13th of those invitations.
"We ran our best race of the year, but we all feel there is a little more left that we can do," said Smith. "We're still waiting for that ultimate race and we still think we can run a little better."
This will be K-State's first appearance at the NCAA meet since 2000, when Amy Mortimer's individual sixth-place run led the Wildcats to a 10th-place team finish.
Today's Wildcat team includes two runners that were on the 2007 K-State team that finished last in the Big 12 meet.
"That makes this very rewarding for me, and those girls," Smith said of seniors Sydney Messick and Alyssa Bellinder. "I was very discouraged that day, but coach (Cliff) Rovelto reminded me that it's not a sprint, but a marathon."
"We felt we had the right girls in place, but it was just going to take patience for them to mature and develop to this point," said Smith.
Today's lineup includes seniors Messick and Bellinder, junior Boglarka Bozzay, sophomore Martina Tresch, plus freshmen Avery Clifton, Meghan Heuer and Sarah Swenson.
"We have a nice blend. Our older runners are good people and good students, which makes it easier to bring in young talent and continue to grow the program," said Smith. "Our freshmen are not running afraid, but that's due to the older ones helping them develop."
The NCAA Championship race can be seen live on CBS College Sports network and fans can follow the action on Twitter @NCAA.
BELLINDER WINS ELITE 88 AWARD: Alyssa Bellinder became the latest Wildcat to be recognized for her hard work in the classroom by receiving the NCAA Elite 88 Award at the NCAA cross country national championship banquet as the top student-athlete in her sport with her 4.0 GPA.
The Elite 88 Award recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 88 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA's 88 championships.
MORE SMART CATS: Led by three-time selections Corey Adams and Tysyn Hartman, Kansas State recorded the second-most Academic All-Big 12 selections in program history as 14 Wildcat football players were named to the 2010 squad.
Seven student-athletes were each named to the first and second teams, while the 14 total selections were three shy of the school record of 17, which was set back in 2000. K-State, which has led the Big 12 in all-sports and football graduation rates for the past four years, has now had 27 Academic All-Big 12 picks in the last two seasons and a total of 121 under head coach Bill Snyder.
Adams, a senior marketing major who was named a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy and a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, and Hartman, an Academic All-District selection last season and finance major, earned all-conference honors in the classroom for the third straight year.
They were joined on this year's first team by Logan Dold (sociology/criminology), Gabe Gantz (agricultural technology management), Lucas Hamm (accounting), Kevin Rohleder (accounting) and Jordan Voelker (marketing). Dold, Gantz and Rohleder each earned the distinction for the second straight year.
Second team selections were Colten Freeze (open option), Jay Hanley (agricultural business), Rodney Kenner (accounting), Payton Kirk (secondary education), Collin Klein (accounting), William Powell (management) and Jarett Wright (life science). Kirk and Klein were also all-academic picks a year ago.
ACADEMIC VOLLEYBALLERS: Four members of the K-State volleyball team have received honors for their classroom work.
Julianne Chisholm, a 4.0 student in athletic training/pre-med, life sciences and gerontology, made the Academic All-Big 12 first team for the second year in a row.
Decorated with honors for the third time was Lauren Mathewson, a marketing major, while first-time honorees included Caitlyn Donahue (secondary education), Kathleen Ludwig (elementary education) and Alex Muff (journalism). Donahue and Muff were first-teamers, while Ludwig earned second team honors.
In 10 years with the program, the volleyball program coached by Suzie Fritz has had 81 Academic All-Big 12 selections.