Wichita State cross country coach Kirk Hunter told Sidney Hirsch she would run a personal-record time on Saturday in the JK Gold Classic. He knew, even if she didn’t believe him.
“Not a bit,” Hunter said. “I think she was maybe in a little denial about that, she didn’t know that she could run that fast. I could see from her workouts she was capable of running to that level.”
Hirsch, a freshman from Omaha, proved Hunter correct with her third-place finish in Saturday’s JK Gold Classic at the RAFT Golf Course. Wichita State senior Chris Burnett won the men’s 6K with a time of 18 minutes, 37.50 seconds with junior teammate Ryan Hocker second at 19:02.70.
Running against four Kansas State runners with top-25 Big 12 Championships finishes to their credit, Hirsch stayed close to second-place Martina Tresch until late in the race. Kansas State’s Laura Galvan finished first with a time of 13:49.72 in the 4-kilometer race to end a three-year run of Shocker individual titles. Galvan finished second a year ago behind WSU’s Aliphine Tuliaumk-Bolton. Tresch, the 2009 JK Gold champion, finished second at 14:00.60.
“She’s chasing some high-level girls (from Kansas State),” Hunter said.
Hirsch’s time of 14:15.01 represents an improvement from a 14:49 she ran as a junior in high school at Millard West.
“I wasn’t even able to PR my senior year,” she said. “In high school, it was kind of me, by myself. I didn’t have teammates to push me. At Wichita, I’ve got a ton of girls to push me every day in practice and it helps.”
Kansas State freshman Morgan Wedekind, from Valley Center, placed fourth. The next Shockers came in seventh (Ebeissa Nyandwi), eighth (Samantha Shukla) and ninth (Katie McLeod). Hunter didn’t expect Hirsch to finish 19 seconds ahead of her nearest teammate.
“We train together in practice, and I was disappointed we didn’t race together as close as we should have,” he said. “In practices, we’re inseparable. I’ve seen them run at levels where Sidney had a hard time staying with a lot of them.”
Burnett also exceeded his expectations, shaving almost 30 seconds off his times from his junior season. Hamstring and back injuries limited his training before last fall. Feeling healthy, he upped his mileage from around 70 miles a week to around 90 and the results showed. He easily won Saturday’s race, leading four Shockers in the top 10.
“I’ve been really healthy and that’s made all the difference,” he said. “I was surprised to get the win, but it feels really good.”
Last fall, Burnett started his WSU career, after transferring from a SUNY Delhi, a junior college in Dehli, N.Y., with a 19:06.77 in the JK Gold Classic. He ran in four meets and finished 27th in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships. Hunter expects bigger things in his senior season.
He is the first Shocker to win the JK Gold Classic since Marius Sava in 2009.
“If he can stay healthy, that’s the Chris Burnett that I know and see every day,” Hunter said.
Kapaun Mount Carmel won the boys team title with three runners in the top 10. Jacob Hesse placed second (17:05.76), followed by Matt Wilson (17:58.14) in fourth and Nolan Hesse 10th (18:18.63). Blue Valley West’s Grady Lenihan won the boys 5K with a time of 17:00.32.