Cross country squads look to upcoming season

Mileage has been increasing as Southern’s cross country teams prepare for the new season.

With an addition of five new freshmen to the team, the bar is still held high as the men set out to defend their conference title.

“We have a good group of freshmen,” said sophomore Dustin Dixon. “They’re tough. This year we’ve got a shot at being great.”

Claiming the conference championship again this year may prove more difficult with Ft. Hays State University joining the MIAA conference.

“It’s going to be hard,” said men’s head coach Tom Rutledge.

He said although the team has been picked to be one of the better ones in the conference, CMSU and the ambiguous Ft. Hays might make the season more competitive.

In addition to the MIAA title, which the team has earned 5 times in the last six years, the men have also set their eyes on nationals.

In fact, senior Dustin Miller chose to red shirt this season in hopes of competing at the national cross country meet to be held at Southern next year.

Two other upperclassmen are also redshirting.

Despite the youth of this year’s team, Rutledge said he is excited because he sees a lot of good potential.

“I think we still have enough to do some serious damage,” Rutledge said.

He said training has gone really well and the men came into the season in great shape.

“We look a lot stronger than we did last year at this time,” Dixon said.

Saturday the freshmen and two upperclassmen will be competing against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, ORU, and Tulsa at Tulsa.

While the women’s team isn’t competing this weekend, they’ve been training hard for the new season.

Women’s head coach Patty Vavra said team will look to senior Ashley Hendrix for leadership this year.

“She’s an excellent role model: very supportive and very intuitive of the other girls and how they’re doing,” Vavra said.

Vavra is looking to leadership from Hendrix and the other returners this year, since half the team consists of freshmen.

“We’re weighted heavily in underclassmen,” she said. “We have a lot of new people, so the outlook is questionable.”

She said having seen only one week of practice, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

“There’s too much unknown,” said assistant coach Jamie Burnham. “There’s definitely potential to be a good team, but there are too many question marks now.”

Burnham said a main reason for the questions is the fact several of the returners have been battling injuries over the summer.

Despite the set back, Hendrix still has high hopes for the team.

“Although we’ve been faced with lots of injuries, there’s lots of talent including the incoming freshmen,” said senior Ashley Hendrix.

Hendrix would like to see them qualify for the national meet.

“The talent is there, we just have to see if we can bring it all together for regionals,” Hendrix said.