Projections don’t have Wichita State sophomore Winny Koskei very high for Saturday’s 6-kilometer race at the NCAA cross country championships in in Madison, Wis.
For those outside the WSU program, Koskei’s emergence this season has been a surprise. She wasn’t supposed to win the American Athletic Conference championship, but she did. She wasn’t supposed to be able to hang with the top runners in last week’s NCAA Midwest Regional, but she finished third.
Now Koskei wants to prove the projections wrong once again, as the Kenyan has her sights set on a top-40 finish on Saturday to achieve All-American status. Koskei is just the sixth WSU woman to make the NCAA Championships and she could become the Shockers’ first All-American since Aliphine Tuliamuk in 2012. The race is slated for a 10:45 a.m. start with FloTrack live-streaming the race.
“Those girls she was running with at regionals were ranked 16, 17, 18, in that range,” WSU coach Kirk Hunter said. “The fact that she was able to hang with those girls and beat one of them, I don’t know why Winny shouldn’t be up there with them. But this is the first time here for her, so you never know what’s going to happen.”
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Hunter’s message to Koskei this week is don’t try to do anything special at this stage. Koskei has pieced together a standout season doing the same thing every race.
“She hasn’t done anything crazy, she’s just been really consistent each meet and performing at a really strong level each time,” Hunter said. “When you’re consistent like that, you put yourself in a position to be successful.
“I’m not the type of person who is going to just be happy about being there. You have to be a person that is there for a reason. This is an opportunity that we don’t know if it’s ever going to come back, so you have to take advantage of it when it’s here.”
Koskei had another strong week leading up to Saturday’s race and Hunter thinks her dream of being an All-American can come to fruition on Saturday.
Regardless of the outcome though, Hunter said the future is bright with so much in the future for the redshirt sophomore.
“It’s a huge deal for Winny to make it to the NCAA Championships already,” Hunter said. “Most of the people who make it to this meet don’t do it until they’re seniors. I haven’t had anyone since Aliphine make it, so that shows you right there how tough it is to make it. If Winnie has a great meet, she has an excellent chance at top-40. And if it doesn’t work out, then she still has a great future for the next three years in this program.”