This is the kind of field Wichita State cross country coach Kirk Hunter wants to see in the JK Gold Classic.
Missouri, coached by former WSU coach Marc Burns, brings a 15th-ranked women’s team to Saturday’s meet near Augusta. Kansas State, a regular in past years, and Missouri State give it the biggest NCAA Division I field in many years.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Hunter said. “This is really a jump forward for us in terms of the quality of competition.”
Missouri is No. 1 in the Midwest Region with WSU No. 14. In the men’s regional rankings, Missouri is No. 9 and WSU No. 12.
WSU’s schedule is different this season, although the changes are not related to the entrance into the American Athletic Conference. Instead of the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas and Nebraska’s Woody Greeno Invitational, the Shockers will run in meets at Missouri Southern State University, Notre Dame, Bradley and in Kansas’ Rim Rock Classic.
“I did it, really, just to change things up,” Hunter said. “All of this started before we knew we were switching conferences.”
The Shocker women return junior Rebekah Topham, last fall’s Missouri Valley Conference champion. The team finished third. Jordan Maestas is the team’s lone senior and Hunter will need several young runners to step into important roles.
Hunter is excited about the numbers on the men’s team, which finished second in the MVC last season. Several of his top runners will run unattached Saturday.
Joe Harter finished 14th and Nathan Wickoren 19th in the MVC meet.
“Very deep,” Hunter said. “There are so many that are doing well.”
Saturday’s meet at 4 Mile Creek Resort (formerly RAFT Golf Course) begins with the high school girls race at 8 a.m. College races begin at 8:30 a.m.
Former Wichita State track and field coach Herm Wilson, who is celebrating his 90th birthday, will be recognized at the meet. Around 40 former Shockers are returning for a picnic and dinner honoring Wilson, who coached at WSU from 1967-83.
Perfect after one — Shocker volleyball is 3-0 for the first time since its 29-match win streak started the 2008 season.
WSU travels to Indianapolis for the IUPUI Hampton Inn Invitational this week. The Shockers play host IUPUI (2-2) at 6 p.m. Friday with Saturday matches vs. Marquette (9 a.m.) and Miami (Ohio) (4 p.m.).
Marquette (1-2) won at then-No. 20 Hawaii to open the season before losing to UCLA and San Diego. The Golden Eagles are picked third in the Big East.
Miami (3-1), preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference, defeated Southern Illinois, Northern Arizona and Xavier.
WSU’s wins over Lipscomb (which defeated No. 24 Arizona), East Tennessee State and Belmont provided most of the bright spots for the American Athletic Conference opening weekend. The AAC stumbled to a 16-21 record.
Cincinnati, picked second in the preseason poll behind Wichita State, went 0-3 with losses to No. 23 Utah, Arkansas State and No. 14 Kentucky. Defending champion SMU, which started the season with votes in the AVCA top 25, lost to Mississippi State and Rice before defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Baylor TV set for basketball — WSU’s men’s basketball game at Baylor on Dec. 2 will tip at 1 p.m. ESPNU will televise the game.
JK Gold Classic
4 Mile Creek Resort
13283 SW Tawakoni Rd, Augusta
8 a.m. — Varsity girls high school, 5k
8:30 — College men, 6k
9 — College women, 4k
9:30 — Varsity boys high school, 5k