With the loss of the runners for both the men's and women's teams, Kansas cross country is forced to look to new faces to lead the team. Kansan sports columnists Kylie Hanna and Sam Lance debate which runner will step up and make the biggest impact during the 2019 season.
Ally Ryan | Kylie Hanna
The graduation of former lead runner Sharon Lokedi meant one thing for the women’s cross country team: someone had big shoes to fill.
Those spikes can only be filled by sophomore Ally Ryan. Following in Lokedi’s footsteps, Ryan was consistently the number two or three runner on the team during her freshman season last year. In her first race with the Jayhawks, Ryan finished 78th at the Pre-National Invitational with a time of 21:35.1, coming in behind Lokedi’s sixth-place finish (20:11.9).
It was no surprise that Ryan also became an All-Big 12 runner when she ran a time of 20:55, placing 13th at the 2018 Big 12 Cross Country Championships.
Ryan also can use momentum from her freshman indoor and outdoor track seasons. Ryan’s track debut consisted of a first place finish in the 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:54.55 at the KU-KSU-WSU Triangular. She was also a member of the school record-breaking distance medley relay, finishing third at the Alex Wilson Invitational (10:58.31).
Now for this cross country season, Ryan finished first in the Bob Timmons Classic with a time of 18:49.7, leading the Jayhawks women's team to a team title.
Yes, junior Cameron Gueldner and freshman Kalea Chu will help round out a solid varsity team, but when it comes down to it, Ryan has already made her way into KU history and will make the biggest impact with the team this season.
George Letner | Sam Lance
With the loss of their No. 1 man and All-Big 12 runner Michael Melgares, Kansas men’s cross country looks toward new runners to step up in his absence.
Last year, junior George Letner sat at the middle of the Kansas pack, placing 25th at the Big 12 Championships (24:58.3) and 76th in the NCAA Midwest Regional (32:32.4). Building off this success heading into 2019 will be crucial for Letner.
And so far, that's what Letner has provided for the team to open the season with a third place finish in the season-opening Bob Timmons Classic with a time of 19:31.9.
Furthermore, freshmen Teddy Buckley and Chandler Gibbens are both very talented runners and will rely on Letner’s leadership to guide them through the year, making him the athlete who will have the biggest impact on the season.