Southern tops pre-season poll

Matt Barney, Sports Writer

The MIAA pre-season coach’s poll, released last week, ranked Southern’s men’s and women’s cross country teams first and third, respectively, in the conference.  

The men’s team garnered overwhelming consideration, receiving eight of the nine first place votes, while the women’s team received three first place votes of its own.  

“It shows respect from the other coaches in the conference, which is great,” said men’s head coach Bryan Schiding. “I think it’s deserved because our guys work harder than anybody; they train their butts off.”  

“We would like to finish higher than our number-three MIAA ranking, and that will be our goal,” said women’s head coach Patty Vavra. “Rankings are just a prediction that are, many times, based on the past year’s results.  I think it is a fair prediction with that taken into consideration.”

While the coaches and athletes appreciate the respect the polls have shown their programs, they know polls don’t mean anything unless they perform on the course.  

“Polls look good on paper, but they generally don’t mean much,” Schiding said. “When it comes down to conference titles it can be anybody’s race.”

“It’s a humbling ranking, but you never know what the outcome is going to be,” said senior runner Dora Eastin. “Anything could happen; I am praying that God will help keep us focused and healthy so that we can see what we are made of.”

With the start of the season rapidly approaching, other teams will be looking to make an impact by knocking the Lions down a peg.

“We’ve definitely got a target on our back,” said assistant men’s and women’s coach Jamie Burnham.

“Being in the number one spot means we have to maintain a certain mentality,” said senior runner Adrian Todd. “We must be always be striving for perfection. If we slip up, there are other teams that are just as hungry that will take our spot.”

Despite the bull’s-eye on their back, the Lions will be gunning for other teams as well.

“[The ranking] does put a target on our back, but we also have targets put on other teams,” said senior runner Colton Wooldridge. “We have goals that we are aiming for, so not only do we have to be aware of those aiming at us, but we still have to keep an eye on our targets.  I’m excited to see what this season will bring.”

Both teams open their seasons Sept. 20 at home for the Southern Stampede.