Cross Country Opens Season with J.K. Gold Classic

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Kansas State men’s and women’s cross country teams will open the 2007 season at the J.K Gold Classic in Augusta, Kan. on Saturday, Sept. 1. The meet is hosted by Wichita State University and will take place at the Raft Golf Course. The men’s 6K race begins at 9 a.m., followed by the women’s 4K race at 9:30 a.m.

After a productive summer of training fourth-year head coach Michael Smith and the runners aim to improve on the 2006 campaign. The Wildcats return eight runners on the women’s side, while the men’s team returns six from last season.

“Training for cross country is a grind,” Coach Smith shared about the summer training. “Everyday you are running when it’s hot, when it’s early in the morning whenever you’re doing it, it is a grind. It is nice to have a break from that to compete and really test yourself. Not only will these kids get to test themselves but also we will see what kind of young people that we have because we are largely depending on the young people in this race both for the women and the men.”

This first meet will be a test to see how the young runners can handle the load of carrying a team early in the season. Four of the women’s top runners Liliani Mendez, Morgan Bonds, Beverly Ramos and Emily Dittemore will not be competing in Saturday’s race. On the men’s side freshman Mike Sickafoose and senior Colin Swaney will not compete due to injuries. They are expected to race at the K-State/KU Dual on Sept. 7.

Although four of the women’s top runners will not compete in Saturday’s race, the women will look to start off strong with a young, but talented lineup.

“I think we still have a very good group that is going down there,” Smith said of the women’s team. “I want to see us be as competitive as we can with runners that aren’t in our top four. I look for us to be competitive no matter who we put out there.”

The men will look to top returning letterman, junior Alex Umberger, to have a breakout season beginning on Saturday. Umberger completed last year by finishing as the team’s top runner for the last two meets of 2006 at the Big 12 Championships (10/27) and the Midwest Regional Championships (11/11). A Maize, Kan. native, Umberger will be returning to the Wichita area to show a hometown crowd that he has improved during his time at K-State.

“We are depending on young guys,” Smith commented about the men’s runners for Saturday. “I want to see that they can shoulder the load. We are running Alex (Umberger), our number-one, and Danny (Schneider), our number-two and after that it is young guys that we are depending on ... This race gives Alex the chance to showcase what he is really capable of doing.”

Results from the meet will be posted at as soon as they come available.