Wildcats Open Season at J.K. Classic Gold Duals

MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State Cross Country is set to begin their 2014 season in Augusta, Kansas, at the J.K. Gold Classic Duals this Saturday. Last season, the women came right out of the gate to secure a first-place finish, while the men finished second behind host Wichita State.

This weekend, along with the Shockers, the Wildcats will face a group of NAIA schools as well as a collection of junior colleges.

The courses for this week will be set at 4K for the women and 6K  for the men, head coach Mike Smith views the races for both the men's and women's squads as a tune-up for the rest of the season.

"This is a 4K and a 6K, so not championship distances [6K/8K], I'd liken it to playing on an 80-yard football field," Smith said. "[The weather] is going to be cool, so our chances go up for solid performances."

Led this year by senior Laura Galvan, who took first overall at the Duals last year, the women's team enters the season with high expectations despite the departure of All-American Martina Tresch.

Smith said he has been impressed with the progress of several of the runners throughout the summer and is hopeful that they will be able to fill Tresch's production.

"We have more depth with the women than we've had in the past," Smith said.  "Mary Frances Donnelly, Morgan Wedekind and Erika Schiller all have taken huge leaps forward. They are expected to fill that hole, they have in practice, the question is, are they going to show up at races at the same level Martina did."

On the men's side, Smith looks to sophomores, Jeff and Brett Bachman, to be the frontrunners for the season.

"The twins have trained very hard over the summer and they have made significant progress," Smith said.

Smith also said Colton Donahue and Logan Smith will be looked upon as contributors to a young men's team - Logan and Fernando Roman are the lone upperclassmen.

With most of the men's roster comprised of homegrown talent, 12 of the 13 men's runners are from either Kansas or Missouri, Smith's expectation for the team, as a whole, is that they continue to improve as the season progresses. 

"We are developing local, regional kids and trying to get the most out of them," Smith said. "If we can compete with the top half of the Big 12 this season, it would be a tremendous accomplishment."

Action for the Wildcats at RAFT Golf Course is expected to get started early Saturday morning and continue up until around noon. For up-to-the-minute K-State updates, follow @kstate_gameday under #KStateXC.