ST. LOUIS – The 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championship will be held this Saturday, October 27, at the Weibring Golf Course in Normal, Ill. hosted by Illinois State University. Illinois State women and Indiana State men were voted as the pre-championship favorites in the coaches’ pre-championship poll. The Redbird women are seeking to continue their winning streak by winning back-to-back titles, which would be the seventh title in school history. The Sycamore men hope to make this their fourth consecutive team win and the school's ninth overall. The women's 5k race will start at 10:30am followed by the men’s 8k race at 11:30 a.m.
After winning last year's championship and being this year's preseason favorite, the Illinois State women's cross country team is picked to win the 2012 MVC Women's Cross Country Championship with 96 points and six first-place votes. The Redbirds trio of Rachael Brewer, Elise Sigg and Kelly McShea will pace the team as they hold three of the top-ten 5k times in the Valley. Brewer holds the second spot, Sigg has the sixth with McShea owning the ninth slot.
Finishing in second-place a year ago, Wichita State took three first-place votes, earning 86 points, and the second spot in the poll. Senior Aliphine Tuliamuk has had a dominating season, having the top 4k, 5k and 6k times in the Valley. Tuliamuk has won all four races she has competed in this season and has been named MVC Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Week three times.
Bradley and Southern Illinois tied for the No. 3 spot in the coaches poll with 75 points.
The Braves had one first-place vote as they have three athletes in the 5k top-ten. Sarah McMahon, 2011 All-Conference runner, holds Bradley's top 5k time, followed closely by Cassie Lohmeier and Emily Delvo.
Their top returning Conference Championship finisher from a year ago, Lacey Gibson, has the fastest mark for the Salukis in the 5k distance. Teammate Sadie Darnell will be a top competitor as she has taken the top honor in two of her races.
Indiana State came in fifth with 53 points. Jessica Zangmeister will lead the Sycamores after finishing every race in the top-20 during the 2012 season. Zangmeister is coming off of a 6k performance that tied for the sixth-best performance in school history. Nicole Lucas and Hanna Mercer will look to make an impact in this year's Championship as well.
UNI swiped the sixth spot in the pre-championship poll with 45 points. The senior duo of Allison Fick and Hayley Thomas will lead the Panthers on the trail. Fick owns the tenth-best 5k time in the Valley, while Thomas earned All-Conference status last season.
Drake checks in at a close No. 7 with 40 points. The Bulldogs are coming off of their last regular-season race in which almost every runner competing ran a personal-best. Fifth-year senior, Kirsten Lake, has been Drake's top finisher in each race she has competed in.
Missouri State earned seventh in the coaches' poll with 30 points, while Evansville and Creighton round out the final positions with 28 and 17 points, respectively.
2011 All-Conference award winner, Emily Beaver, will bring her championship experience, as well as teammate Erin Edwards. Beaver and Edwards have been the top-two finishers for the Bears in every race this season.
Kelby Jenkins of Evansville has four first-place finishes in the 2012 season, running the fifth-fastest time in the MVC during an October race. Courtney Sawle, Meghan Barry and Emily Mauser will pace the Jays.
Indiana State was picked first in the men's pre-championship poll with seven first-place votes and a total of 78 points. The Sycamores' have a lot of depth in their lineup as John Mascari, Albaro Escalera and Dustin Betz all have top-five 8k performances in the Valley (first, second and fourth, respectively). Indiana State goes into the 2012 Championship, ranked eighth in the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region.
Southern Illinois took the second spot and remaining two first-place votes (73 points). The Salukis will look to de-throne the Sycamores with the help of Zach Dahleen, Brian Dixon and Nick Schrader who hold times in the Conference's top-ten. Dahleen and Dixon both look to earn All-Conference honors for the second year in a row. In four scored meets, Southern Illinois has taken team honors in three.
Wichita State checks in at the No. 3 position with 60 points. The Shockers' took home top team honors at the J.K. Gold Classic and Missouri State Invite after strong performances by Sterling Spencer, Jake Wike and Marcos Bailon.
Drake sits at the fourth position getting 67 points. The Bulldogs return 2011 All-Conference Athlete of the Year, Brogan Austin. Austin has the ninth-best 8k time in the Valley. Mike Rodriguez and Conor Wells will look to make an impact.
UNI notched the fifth spot with a total of 47 points with Bradley behind them in sixth-place (36 points). Brett Egan holds the fastest 6k and 8k times for the Panthers and finished 12th at the 2011 MVC Championship. For the Braves, Chase Coffey sits in the top-20 of the 2012 Valley Best List and will compete with teammates Eric Delvo and Cole Dill.
Illinois State earned seventh-place in the pre-championship poll with a total of 27 points. Ryan Rutherford, the top-Redbird finisher a year ago, will lead the team as he currently holds the fifth-fastest 8k time in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Evansville was picked to take eighth getting 19 points while Creighton tallied 12 points and the ninth slot.
The Purple Aces will be under the leadership of Josh Genet and Cody Stein who have been their top-two finishers in every race this season. Mike Hitt, Garrett Kenyon and Drew Prescott currently hold the top-times for the Jays.