KU women's cross country

Assistant coach Michel Whittlesey meets with the women's team ahead to their season-opening race at Rim Rock Farm on Saturday, September 4. Junior Sommer Herner finished in first place. 

The Kansas men's and women’s cross country teams kicked off their season at Rim Rock Farm on Saturday for the Bob Timmons Classic.

The inaugural race of the season began at 9 a.m. with the men running the 6K, followed by the women’s 5K which began at 10 a.m.

Competing with the Jayhawks were Oral Roberts and Kansas City, formerly known as UMKC. The Kansas men dominated with runners placing in all top five positions. The KU women proved dominant as well, with three runners finishing in the top five. 

“I thought we competed pretty well throughout it,” said Kansas cross country assistant coach Michael Whittlesey. "They challenged each other and that was the main issue -- we had to react to some other opponents, but we have to keep challenging each other. And on the women’s side, I thought the execution of our groups went really really well. We had several people who did a really good job working as a pack…”

KU came into the meet as one of the youngest cross country teams in the country. This year's men’s team consists of 10 freshmen, alongside eight sophomores, and three juniors. 

The women's team is also very young, but is proving to be just as experienced with a similar count of freshman, sophomore and junior runners. Neither team has any seniors on their rosters. 

Freshman Cale Littrell led the way for the men’s team, coming in first place in the 6K and being the only runner with a time under 20 minutes (19:56.94). Placing second, third and fourth, respectively, were KU freshmen TJ Robinson, Sam Hubert, Peter Walsdorf and Aiden Murphy. 

Podium finishers for the Kansas women’s team included junior Sommer Herner who took first place with a time of 18:33.3, followed by sophomores Avryl Johnson (18:53.4) and Lona Latema (19:09.5). 

“It was so special and it means so much looking up and having people cheer you on, it just gives you that extra boost to keep going,” said Herner regarding having an audience back in the stands. “I definitely think it helps my confidence, and the same with the team’s...” 

The next meet for the Jayhawks will be on Oct. 1 in Columbia, Missouri for the Gans Creek Classic. Kansas is also set to appear in meets in Tallahassee, Florida and eventually Stillwater, Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship. 

Kansas looks to crown a Big 12 champion for the first time since Colby Wissel back in 2006. For now, the Jayhawks are eager to build on a promising start with a young group of runners.