Kristi Kloster Burritt
Kristi Kloster Burritt Born: March 2, 1973 (Merriam, KS)
Graduated: Bishop Miege, 1991; University of Kansas, 1996
Glenn Cunningham is smiling today. The man who overcame tragic events in his own life that nearly grounded his lofty career before he was even a teenager and who became known as the “Kansas Ironman” for overcoming all his physical ailments on his way to gaining international fame and glory would be proud to know another Jayhawk followed in his footsteps. Today, that athlete, Kristi Kloster Burritt from Olathe, takes her place alongside all of the great Kansas distance runners who have gone before her.
Kloster Burritt grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City in Johnson County, Kansas, and attended Bishop Miege High School where she found early success in track and cross country for the Stags. In cross country, Kloster Burritt was part of three consecutive state championship teams at Miege and won back to back individual cross country state championships in 1989 and 1990.
In track, her success again came early and often. As a sophomore, Kloster Burritt claimed her first of five individual state championships for the Stags by winning the 400 meter in 1989. She added two individual titles each of the next two years by winning the 200 meter and 400 meter in 1990 as a junior and winning the 400 meter and 800 meter as a senior in 1991. Kloster Burritt also helped Bishop Miege win the team state championship in 1991.
With seven individual state championships, Kloster Burritt was well on her way to becoming one of the most decorated runners in state history. But, she wasn’t finished and she took her talents to the University of Kansas and continued to dominate the competition.
As a freshman during the 1992 outdoor season, Kloster Burritt showed a glimpse of what was to come the rest of her Jayhawk career as she won the Big Eight conference title in the 800 meter. She would claim two more 800 meter conference championships in 1994 as she won both the conference indoor and outdoor events. At the 1994 indoor NCAA Championships, Kloster Burritt finished eighth in the 800 meter and earned her first All-American honor.
Remarkably, it seemed like Kloster Burritt still hadn’t reached her ceiling as she entered what would be her senior season in the crimson and blue. However, after being sidelined with tremendous leg pain which was later diagnosed as compartment syndrome, a rare disorder in which pressure in the muscles increases to extreme levels during exercise, Kloster Burritt needed to sit out the entire 1995 season.
As Kloster Burritt recalled to the Lawrence Journal World in 1996 looking back on her time on the sideline, “It was very frustrating. I was lying flat on my back with my feet up in the air. I couldn’t get up by myself. I couldn’t watch; I was so sick.”
Easy to see from her own words how motivated she was to get back to running, which she did during the 1996 season. Kloster Burritt once again claimed the Big Eight championship in the indoor 800 meter and in one of the closest races in NCAA women’s championship history, Kloster Burritt set a school record in the same event and became the first Jayhawk woman to win an NCAA track and field national championship. In the same meet, Kloster Burritt helped the Jayhawk distance medley relay also earn All-American honors with a seventh place finish. The same year, Kloster Burritt was also honored as an Academic All-American and was a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year.