ST. LOUIS – The 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championship will be held this Saturday, November 2, at the Blank Park Golf Course in Des Moines, Iowa hosted by Drake University. Southern Illinois men and Bradley women were voted as the pre-championship favorites in the coaches’ pre-championship poll. The Saluki men are looking to continue their winning streak by winning back-to-back titles, which would be their 14th in school history. The Braves women are hoping to make this their second championship title in school history, the first since 1998. The men’s 8k race will start at 10:30 a.m. followed by the women’s 5k race at 11:30 a.m.
After winning last year’s championship and being this year’s preseason favorite, the Southern Illinois men’s cross country team is picked to win the 2013 MVC Men’s Cross Country Championship with 80 points and eight first-place votes. Zach Dahleen and Nick Schrader hold two of the top-ten men’s 8k times in the Conference, with Brian Dixon, Oscar Medina and Juan Carrera having the 11th, 13th and 15th spot, respectively.
The Braves had one first-place vote and 60 points, claiming the second spot in the poll. The Bradley men are coming off of a first-place team finish at the Bradley Pink Classic where they beat out 21 schools. The junior duo of Chase Coffey and Eric Delvo hold Bradley’s top-two 8k times that are good for sixth and ninth in the MVC. Marshall Moyer will add depth for the Braves.
A close third, Illinois State, earned 59 points. The Redbirds have the second-fastest 8k time in the Valley in Ryan Rutherford’s Pre-Nationals time. Rutherford will team up with Tyler Morse (eighth top time) and Sean Senf to lead the Illinois State men’s team during the Championship.
Indiana State swiped the fourth spot in the pre-championship poll with 55 points. The Sycamores are led by the redshirt sophomore standout, John Mascari. Mascari is the returning Men’s Athlete of the Year and currently holds the fastest 8k time in the Valley and has earned Male Athlete of the Week honors an unprecedented five times. He will be joined on the trails by Taylor Head and Tristin Selby.
Wichita State came in fifth with 46 points. The Shockers come into the Championship ranked 14th in the USTFCCCA Midwest Region and have three times in the top-15. Brady Johnson (third-best), Ryan Hocker (10th-best) and Christ Burnett (14th-best) will look to make their mark on this year’s championship.
Only one point separates newcomers to the league, Loyola at they check in at a close No. 6 (45 points). Junior Sam Penzenstadler ran the league’s fifth-fastest time on October 19th. Senior Andy Fenske and freshman Alex Baker will see what their first MVC Championship holds.
UNI earned seventh in the coaches’ poll with 28 points, while Drake and Evansville round out the final positions with 23 and nine points, respectively.
UNI’s lead runners are Trai Bunch and Terri Nielsen while Drake looks to Rob McCann and Connor Wells. Josh Genet and Jon Ashby will be at the beginning of the pack for the Purple Aces.
It will be an exciting race on the women’s side as only six points separates first-place from third.
Bradley was picked first in the women’s pre-championship poll with six first-place votes and a total of 93 points. The Braves are going into the Championship ranked fifth in the USTFCCCA Midwest Region ranking, the highest of any Valley team. Sisters Kristen Busch and Caitlin Busch claimed the first and second-fastest 5k times in the Valley at the beginning of the season and teammate Sarah McMahon currently holds the sixth-best time.
Receiving four votes and the second-spot in the coaches’ poll is Illinois State (89 points). The Redbirds are ranked right behind Bradley in sixth in the Midwest Region. Rachael Brewer (third-fastest time; one-time Female Athlete of the Week) will blaze the trail for the team with Kelly McShea (12th-fastest time) and Kristen Zillmer.
Southern Illinois checks in at the No. 3 position with 87 points. The season that Sadie Darnell, Kristen Levi and Kelley Gallagher are having has led to the Salukis’ seventh-place ranking in the USTFCCCA Midwest region. The trio currently holds the fifth, seventh and 13th-best times in the Valley.
Wichita State sits at the fourth position getting 69 points. The Shocker women won two team championships this season with the efforts of senior Samantha Shukla, freshman Sidney Hirsch and junior Kaitlyn McLeod.
Loyola notched the fifth spot with a total of 61 points. Sydney Stuenkel holds the top time for the Ramblers and the eighth-best in the MVC. Stuenkel has finished in the top-five twice this season while teammate Alyvia Clark having finished in the top-five once. Megan Janezic will also look to make an impact at her first MVC Cross Country Championship.
Drake and Indiana State tied for the No. 6 spot in the coaches poll with 40 points.
Emma Hutson, Krista Maguire and Erin Poss are the top runners for Drake this season. The upperclassmen are in the front for Indiana State with seniors Jessica Zangmeister and Leeann Michl and junior Nicole Lucas.
UNI earned eighth-place in the poll and a total of 31 points.
The Panthers will be under the leadership of their top-three time holders Alex Wilson, Theresa Connelly and Hayley Thomas.
Evansville was picked to take ninth-place (27 points) while Missouri State tallied 13 points and the tenth slot.
Kelby Jenkins, Evansville’s top-finisher last year, has earned Female Athlete of the Week honors four times this season as she has run the fourth fastest Conference time. The trio of Tenaly Smith, Megan Nickles and Cindy Forde have been the Bears top-finishers at every meet this season.