Back-to-back: Defending MIAA champion Lions begin their road to repeat

Men’s team.

The defending MIAA Champion Missouri Southern Lions men’s and women’s cross country teams are back and hungry for more as the 2015 -2016 season gets underway tomorrow. Both teams will be competing in the SBU Invite in Bolivar, MO.

The men were chosen to finish third in the 2015 MIAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the league announced on Aug. 27. The defending MIAA Champions are returning three runners from last year’s team after losing four senior runners this offseason.

“Our expectation is always to win conference,” said head coach Bryan Schiding. “Picked third is probably a fair assessment of where other coaches expect us to finish. But going into the season we expect to win. We always will, we always do. We’ll definitely be fighting for a conference championship.”

Schiding has a great crop of incoming freshman coming in including Janzen White from Joplin High School and Blake Barth from Carl Junction High School. Schiding brings in seven freshman in total to compliment the lone senior Nathan Henry and two junior runners Jacob Coffman and Tyler Rush. Ben Southwick, sophomore, also returns to the team this season.

“They [freshman] all have potential to take this team and continue the success we’ve had in the past,” said Schiding.

As a team the Lions finished in the top three in every meet last season taking home first place finishes three times.

Women’s team.

On the women’s side, the Missouri Southern women’s cross country team were chosen to repeat as the conference champions in the 2015 MIAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the league also announced on Aug. 27. The Lions weren’t clear cut choices to finish at the top as Southwest Baptist also received 94 votes. Your defending MIAA Champions return seven runners from last year’s Championship team including junior All-Region performer Emily Harris. Head Coach Patty Vavra returns for her 22nd season as the head women in charge. Vavra is seeking her eighth cross country title and third in the last four seasons.

“We don’t take a lot of stock in that poll itself. We hopefully will use it a bit for a motivator to be as good as the coaches’ think we are in this conference,” said Vavra. “At the same time, I think it shows the respect of our program from the coaches in the conference.

“We want to defend that title for sure,” said junior Emily Harris. “We’re going to fight really hard to be number one. That’s our goal and it’s a realistic goal so hopefully we’re able to do it.”

The Lions welcome in four incoming freshman and two junior college transfers. Junior Cynthia Torres comes to Southern from Golden West College and sophomore Christian Provence from Ottawa University.

This season’s captains are senior Kindra Emberton and junior Emily Harris. Both athletes are coming off great 2014 seasons and are looking to lead the way for their teammates and this program going ahead.

“Our goals are to definitely be in that national meet,” said Vavra. “You can expect to see a group that’ll give their all every time they compete and every time they practice.”

Both the men and women start their journey to back-to-back conference titles tomorrow in the SBU Invite in Bolivar, MO.