Lady Toppers off to slow start

Jonah Phillips

With the Lady Toppers’ perennial success over the past six years, much was expected of them this season.

That fact was confirmed before the start when WKU was picked to win the Sun Belt Conference for the seventh straight time.

The 2012 Lady Toppers brought six new faces to the Hill and returned two-time all-conference runner Vasity Chemweno.

Yet even with the hype and proven talent, the Lady Toppers have finished middle-of-the-pack in both their 2012 meets.

WKU was fifth out of eight teams on Aug. 30 at the Belmont Opener. Last weekend they tied for 12th out of 24 teams at the Commodore Classic.

“I think we have a lot of work to do as individuals and as a team before conference and regionals,” freshman Lindsey Hinken said. “It will require hard work every day in practice, working well together as a team and staying healthy.”

Coach Erik Jenkins said before the season that he expected Hinken to make an immediate impact.

She’s done just that, finishing 22nd overall at Belmont and 56th overall at the Commodore Classic.

Those finishes were first and second, respectively for WKU.

“I think I ran pretty well at the first two meets, considering I’m still adjusting to collegiate running,” Hinken said. “However, I am hoping to improve a lot as the season progresses to run faster and place higher in our key races to better help the team.”

Hinken and the other WKU underclassmen have been running well, but the upperclassmen haven’t been their usual selves, women’s distance coach Michelle Scott said.

“They’re the key for us,” Scott said. “They need to get better, and once we get them running, I think we will be much better.”

One of those upperclassmen, Chemweno, said she’s “not satisfied” with her results so far.

“My performance so far is not up to what my coaches and I expect,” Chemweno said. “…I know my coaches want me to do better than I am right now.”

Chemweno said she’s confident that the team will be ready when the Sun Belt Championship rolls around on Oct. 27.

“I think we need to work more on helping each other, especially at practice,” Chemweno said.

“I know some people might be more fit than others, but if we work together then everybody will be ready to compete when it comes to bigger races like conference and regionals.”

Jenkins isn’t worried about the performance of the women’s squad thus far, especially when it comes to the Commodore Classic that featured seven SEC teams.

“We’re a young team,” he said. “We’ve got to put them in a position where they can compete at a high level and make them understand what it’s like to be in that situation.”