WKU cross country finishes runner-up at first meet

Sam Osborne

The WKU women’s cross country team knew it would have a gaping hole to fill when Janet Jesang graduated last spring.

Now the Lady Toppers lack All-American experience, but they showed Friday that they’re still poised to make some noise in the 2010 season.

“We lost some very good talent from last year’s team,” Head Coach Erik Jenkins said. “But Marion Kandie and Michelle Finn stepped up, and we have a group of young girls that have come in and shown they can mentally prepare and step up.”

WKU opened its season on Friday with a runner-up finish at the Belmont Opener. Vanderbilt, defending champion of the Opener and cohost of the event, notched the win with 27 points while the Lady Toppers’ 59 points placed them a distant second. Alabama was third, Lipscomb fourth, and Middle Tennessee State and Belmont tied for fifth place.

Jenkins said he saw room for improvement. But given the situation, he was pleased.

“It was outstanding showing by the women’s team,” Jenkins said. “We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but we have a group of girls that will work hard to succeed.”

Senior Marion Kandie led WKU with a time of 14:13.87 in the 4,000 meters, taking home first place. Kandie and junior Michelle Finn are expected to fill Jesang’s four-time All-American shoes.

“I did well,” Kandie said. “We need to work on our speed, but I was pleased overall.”

Finn finished third in the 4,000 meters, clocking a time of 14:24.82.

Women’s Distance Coach Michelle Murphy Scott said she was pleasantly surprised with the Lady Toppers’ second-place finish.

“We did very well,” Murphy Scott said. “They did much better than I expected in their first meet.”

The Belmont Opener did have a men’s division, but the WKU men’s team did not compete. The Toppers begin their 2010 campaign Sept. 18 at home in the Old Timers Classic at Kereiakes Park.

The Old Timers Classic is a dual men’s and women’s meet and, along with the Sun Belt Championships on Oct. 30, the only home meet for WKU this season.