After placing second two weeks ago in the regional meet, Missouri Southern cross country runner Kimi Shank was named the Division II South Central Regional Runner of the Year.

Shank, a junior, was nominated by coaches throughout the region, adding to her MIAA Runner of the Year honor.

“Kimi has had a great year,” said Women’s Head Coach Patty Vavra. “She is at the top of her game right now. She has been very instrumental to the team’s success.”

Entering tomorrow’s national meet, the women’s team is nationally ranked at seventh.

“The ladies will go out there and give everything they have to give,” Vavra said. “The big difference from last year is that now they have the national experience. I think last year they were shocked by the meet. Now, they know more of what to expect.”

In addition to Shank, Southern will run seniors Kara Eckard and Kari Fritchie, juniors Courtney Waltbillig and Victoria Kline and sophomores Olga Bulgurova and Silvia Pineda.

“This really is a great group,” Vavra said. “They run well as a team week after week. They need to stay positive and do what they’ve been doing all year.”

The women’s team will face schools such as Adams State, Augustana and Chico State, in the top five alone.

“We’ve come a long way,” Vavra said. “The girls are very supportive of each other. Each one of them is extremely important in success of the team. They show great passion and they will run the best they can.”

The men’s team will make its third consecutive trip to nationals. The men have been to nationals eight of the last nine years.

“We feel grateful that we’re being able to go,” said Men’s Cross Country Head Coach Tom Rutledge. “It’s nice to go. It’s good for the program and for the kids. It’s an exciting time and I hope they do well.”

The men’s team will rely on junior Brennan Benkert to set the pace for the meet. Benkert finished 18th at the regional meet.

“Brennan the most steady runner we have,” Rutledge said. “He is consistent leader. He has great work ethic and is very intelligent.”

The rest of the meet will come down to the eight freshmen. Freshmen Jarrko Jarvenpaa and Aki Nummela were named to the All-Region team after finishing 10th and 14th two weeks ago.

“In order to do good tomorrow, the team needs to pack in and do what they are told,” Rutledge said. “They are young, but I am seeing improvement every day.”

After finishing 44th at the regional meet, freshman Derek Mendell is expected to make a big impact in tomorrow’s race.

“Derek l has come a long way, “Rutledge said. “We anticipated that because we knew he could do it. Not to put pressure on him, but he is the key for this weekend. He really has a great deal of heart.”

The national meet will be held in Slippery Rock Penn., on Saturday.

“Hopefully they don’t get to excited,” Rutledge said. “They need to treat it like a normal race.”