Southern Illinois Men, Illinois State Women Picked to Win MVC Cross Country
Monday, August 19, 2013

ST. LOUIS – The Southern Illinois men and Illinois State women have been selected as the 2013 favorites by a vote of Missouri Valley Conference cross country coaches in their annual preseason poll for the second consecutive year.

After winning last year's MVC Cross Country Championship and returning six of seven members of the championship squad, the league coaches picked Southern Illinois to claim the men's title in 2013. The Salukis received five first-place votes and a total of 77 points largely due to five of their returners receiving All-Conference status just last year. Seniors Zach Dahleen and Brian Dixon with junior Nick Schrader will lead the team after finishing the 2012 MVC Championship in second, sixth and seventh places finishes, respectively.

Indiana State was picked a close second in the preseason poll earning the remaining three first-place votes and 74 points. The Sycamores return four from the second-place squad from a year ago, including Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year, John Mascari. In his first NCAA Championship, Mascari finished in 30:25.6, a new school record. He will be joined by Taylor Head, Tristan Selby and Gabe Ocasio on the trails.

Newcomers to the league, Loyola, came in at third, earning 64 points. The Ramblers return all seven competitors from a team that won the Horizon League Championship last year. Loyola is experience-heavy as their returners are four seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. Sam Penzenstadler, Jake Autio, Oscar Aguinaga, Alex Thornburg and Jared Skrabacz will all look to make their mark this season at the 2013 MVC Championship.

Illinois State notched the No. 4 spot, tallying 46 points, with their top-finisher, Ryan Rutherford, back for another year. Rutherford earned MVC Athlete of the Week honors once during the season and claimed eighth at the Championship. Sean Senf, Tyler Morse and Scott Janusick will add experience to the team.

Drake took fifth-place, securing 39 points with Wichita State as an extremely close sixth (37 points).

Drake welcomes back their top-three runners from a season ago. Their All-Conference award winner, Brogan Austin (third-place) will be joined by sophomore Rob McCann and junior Conor Wells who both finished in the top-35 in 2012.

Wichita State men will look to the upperclassmen trio of Sterling Spencer, Kelvin Busienei and Justin Scott during the season. At the 2012 MVC Championship, Spencer finished in 15th, with Busienei and Scott right behind in 23rd and 24th, respectively.

Bradley notched the seventh position with 33 points while UNI (22) and Evansville (14) round out the final positions in eight and ninth.

The Braves return every runner from its 2012 squad except for one while also adding a few key newcomers. Chase Coffey will start his junior year as one of Bradley’s top runners after finishing in 14th last year. Cole Dill and Eric Delvo will add depth to the team after being the Braves third and fourth-finishers.

The Panthers bring back Calvin Kibby (senior), Zach Buchheit (sophomore) and Terry Nielsen (junior). Evansville will have more depth this year as they return Josh Genet (12th), Andrew Barrett (36th) and Jon Ashby (47th).

The Illinois State women’s cross country team will look to win their third-consecutive MVC Championship as they were the coaches pick to win, earning nine first-place votes and 98 points. The Redbirds’ will have great depth this year as they only lost one of their top-seven runners from their 2012 Champion squad. Rachael Brewer (second-place), Kim Christensen (seventh), Kelly McShea (eighth) and Sarah Castel (22nd) will look to pace the team to a 2012 Championship Title.

Loyola tallied 87 points and second-place in the poll. The Ramblers lost two runners from a Horizon League Champion squad, including their national qualifier, but bring back five. Alyvia Clark (senior, second-place), Sydney Stuenkel (sophomore, third-place) and Megan Janezic (senior, seventh-place) will try to lead the Ramblers to their first-ever MVC Championship title.

Southern Illinois was tabbed in the third spot as they received one first-place vote totaling 77 points. The Salukis will have experienced leadership as they return everyone from the 2012 third-place team including Sadie Darnell (11th in 2012), Kelley Gallagher (15th) and Kristen Levi (18th).

Wichita State tallied 68 points and fourth-place. The Shockers bring back a solid returning core of Kaitlyn McLeod, Samantha Shukla, Elida Bailon and Emilea Finley. During her 2012 campaign, Shukla had two top-10 finishes and four top-20 finishes while Finley finished sixth at the JK Gold Classic.

Bradley came in at a close fifth-place earning 65 points as their whole team returns for the 2013 season. All-Conference honoree, Sarah McMahon, will lead the Braves after her fifth-place finish a year ago. Liz Smits (So.), Emily Delvo (Jr.) and Caitlin Busch (So.) will add depth.

Indiana State is picked sixth with a total of 45 points with four of the seven runners who competed in last year’s championship coming back. Senior Jessica Zangmeister will be the Sycamores’ top-runner after finishing tenth in 2012, with Nicole Lucas adding experience to the trails.

UNI is picked seventh with 33 points, while Drake took the eighth spot having 28 points.

The Panthers bring back three from the team that raced at last year’s Conference meet with the most notable being senior Hayley Thomas who finished 21st.

The Bulldogs will be comprised of mostly freshman and sophomores. Sophomore duo Taylor Scholl and Celeste Arteaga will show the way for the young team.

Missouri State and Evansville round out the women’s poll in ninth and tenth place, respectively.

The Bears lost three runners but return sophomores Taeler Marshall and Tenaly Smith. The Purple Aces will be under the guidance of seniors Kelby Jenkins, Maria Lynn, Nicole Kreuzman and Jacqueline Carlson. Jenkins will once again be at the front of the pack for Evansville as she finished in fourth-place during the 2012 MVC Championship.

The 2013 MVC Cross Country Championship will be held in Des Moines, Iowa on November 2.