Cross Country picked to win MIAA

Cross Country picked to win MIAA

Cross Country picked to win MIAA

The Missouri Southern men’s cross country team begins its season tonight at the University of Arkansas .

“We may not run our top people tonight,” said Tom Rutledge, men’s cross country head coach.

“We are going to run a lot of the freshman and see who steps up for us. They have got to step up for us to have success. They have got to be tough.”

The team, which graduated three top runners last season, returns with six freshmen: Chris Bell, Jake Crocker, Shawn Goebel, Deric Kimery, Derek Mendell, and John Williams.

“We have a lot of freshman this year, so things are going to be a little different,” said junior Brennan Benkert.

“There is a lot more pressure on the upperclassmen to keep the young guys motivated and healthy. I believe we recruited some very talented runners that will perform well for us.”

Benkert returns as a key a runner for Southern after finishing tenth in the MIAA last season.

“I am focused and determined to come away from this season with All-American honors,” Benkert said.

“I put in a good summer and am looking toward the meet with Arkansas as an excellent chance to test my fitness.”

Senior Dustin Dixon, who missed indoor and outdoor track and field last season, will return after recovering from injury.

Dixon broke his fibula during cross country nationals last season.

“Dustin is a little behind, but he is doing great,” Rutledge said.

“He is going to be fine.”

Junior Isaac Garcia also returns as a red shirt.

“Isaac transfered and realized the grass was not greener on the other side,” Rutledge said.

“So, he came back home.”

Sophomores Aki Nummela and Jarrko Jarvenpaa will also return for Southern.

“Jarkko is in very good shape,” Rutledge said.

“He put in a great summer.”

The team was a unanimous pre-season pick to win the MIAA, picking up all seven of the first place votes.

This is the second year in a row for the team to be named the pre-season favorite unanimously.

“Our ranking doesn’t mean anything,” Rutledge said.

“It’s nice to be recognized, but if you’re first, you still have to prove you deserve to be there.”

Going into the season, the team’s goals are the same as always.

“We want to win conference, finish in the top three at regionals, and in the top four at nationals,” Rutledge said.

Southern will run at the UCM Invite on the Sept. 12 and will host the Southern Stampede on Sept. 20.

“We have a very good team, but need freshman to step up,” Nummela said.

“That will be the key if we want to catch then ‘big fish’ this year.”