Cross country prepares for another successful season; look to win MIAA

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courtesy photo, MSSU.com

Men Cross Country team celebrating being NCAA Div. II regional champions 

by Kevin Jones

The Missouri Southern men and women’s cross country teams look to add another successful season to their already impressive performances in the past.

To start the season, the cross country men are ranked No. 1 in the Central region, while the women are ranked fifth, according to the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s regional poll.

The Southern men return every one of the scorers from last year’s championship team. Sophomore Gidieon Kimutai, last year’s champion, returns along with transfer student Ryan Riddle, who transferred from Tulsa. Riddle comes home to the Joplin area, where he was a standout runner at local Webb City High School.

Kimutai and Riddle are joined by a host of experienced runners as they look to capture yet another title.

The Southern women return all but one runner for this season, and look forward to the return of All-Region runner Ashlee Kuykendall.

Along with being ranked No. 1 in the region, the Southern men are picked to finish first in the MIAA according to the preseason poll.

To add to their championship expectations for this season, the Southern men are a ranked sixth overall in the preseason national poll. The Lions are the only team from the MIAA ranked in the preseason national poll and is the top squad from the Central division.

The expectations are high as the Lions are coming off an impressive finish last season. The Lions finished 8th in the national cross country program of the year standings, and 11th in the Division II Cross Country National Championships.

Cross country coach Jamie Burnham is optimistic about this season. “The off season has gone really well. [We’re] looking forward to a great season and improving on last year’s results,” said Burnham.

The Lions open up cross country action as both the men and women travel to the Southwest Baptist Invite in Bolivar, MO on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Later this season, Southern will host the annual Missouri Southern Stampede at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course on Saturday, Sept. 21.