WKU cross country hoping to maintain Sun Belt dominance

Sam Osborne

Despite the loss of some key contributors from last season’s team, including four-time all-American Janet Jesang, the Lady Toppers are looking for another successful campaign this year.

The WKU cross country program has established itself as a dominating force in the Sun Belt Conference.

The women’s team has captured four straight conference titles, the longest such streak in the nation, and has 14 straight championships with track and field titles included.

“We’re going to take it one meet at a time,” Head Coach Erik Jenkins said. “We want to be successful in the Sun Belt and expand upon that.”

The Lady Toppers open the season ranked 13th in the Southeast region, according to a poll released on Monday by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association.

With the absence of Jesang, Jenkins said he will look to his experienced upperclassmen to step up in her place.

“It’s hard to replace (Jesang),” Jenkins said. “But (seniors) Marian Kandie and Michelle Finn will both be major cogs in what we do at the conference and regional level, and hopefully the national level.”

But assistant coach Craig Morehead said there’s really no way to truly replace one of the program’s most successful runners.

“We’re just going to try to bring in quality (athletes) and let them give it their best effort,” Morehead said.

Though the titles have been coming consistently for the cross country program, Jenkins refuses to become complacent with his team’s success.

“You can’t look at it like, ‘Oh, we’ve won 14 straight (track and cross country titles). We’re good. We’re great,’” Jenkins said. “On any given day, anybody can be beat. We’re trying to outdo what we did last year.”

The Lady Toppers will compete in its first meet Friday in at the Belmont Opener.

“We’re going to learn a lot from this meet,” Jenkins said. “If we learn something every week, then hopefully by the end of the season we can put ourselves in the position where we made our mistakes early and know what it takes to be successful.”