Cross country moves up in national rankings

Cross Country continues to be a dominant sport at Missouri Southern.

Last weekend, the men and women both traveled to Stillwater, Okla., to compete against the Division-I Oklahoma State Cowboys and other top-notch programs in the Oklahoma State Jamboree.

Both of Southern’s teams performed well and both were rewarded by moving up in the national Division-II poll.

The women finished fifth overall and were in front of all other Division-II teams, propelling them all the way to the nation’s No. 3 ranking.

“That was a giant finish as far as beating the No. 1 ranked team in Adams State,” said women’s Head Coach Patty Vavra. “We have a great amount of respect for that program because they’ve won the national championship year-in and year-out.

“Any day you beat Adams State is a good day.”

In addition to bouncing the best Division-II squad last week, as polls go, Southern’s women also bested numbers 11 and 18. While the men defeated a couple of Top-25 ranked teams themselves in Pittsburg State, ranked No. 15, and Drury, ranked No. 24.

“We probably have one of the best teams I’ve ever had, and that’s a fact,” said men’s Head Coach Tom Rutledge. “As far as pack-time, as far as times, we ran well at the Oklahoma State Jamboree. We ran against such stiff competition. Oklahoma State ranked No. 2 or No. 3 in the nation in Division-I. You had Northern Arizona who’s No. 1 in Divison-I.”

For their efforts, the men moved up three places to No. 19 from their previous rank at No. 22.

“It doesn’t matter, rankings mean nothing now,” Rutledge said. “Its how you race at conference, regionals and nationals.”

Rutledge’s men finished 10th overall in the Jamboree and were bested by only three Division-II programs.

“This is the first year I’ve seen the conference so tough – Bottom line,” he said. “I mean we’ve won conference with less before, and I’ve got some good kids training hard and running great times.

“It’s gonna be interesting. We’re gonna give it a run. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That’s athletics. We’re gonna be a competitor, we’re not gonna be a pretender; we’re gonna be a contender.”

Ashley Siler was the first Lions’ woman across the finish line, and was nearly the first Division-II runner across as well. Only one Division-I runner finished before her as she placed 11th overall. Kimi Shank came in two spots behind her with a time just off Siler’s 17:46.50

“I was particularly pleased with the fact that it was a difficult week in training,” Vavra said. “We’ve kept the mileage up a little longer. This group’s goal is to be running at their best in late November, but they’ve responded well even under the conditions of a difficult training week.”

Pacing the men were Aki Nummela and Dustin Dixon, in 69th and 74th respectively. Nummela’s final time was 25:36.90. The men ran the 8k race in Stillwater.

Both teams are in Rolla this weekend competing against Missouri S&T, and will then have next week off before the teams compete in the MIAA Conference Championships in Emporia, Kan.