The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

August 8, 2012

MSSU second in cross country polls; Pitt State women first

— Missouri Southern teams finished second in both MIAA preseason cross country polls, released by the conference office on Tuesday.

Central Missouri’s men and Pittsburg State’s women, the respective defending champions, are also the preseason favorites.

Expansion will make a difference in the conference structure. Lindenwood (Mo.) and Nebraska-Kearney are new members with both men’s and women’s cross country team. Central Oklahoma joins the MIAA in women’s distance running.

The conference will have 10 schools competing in the men’s division and 12 in the women’s.

Both Southern teams return a strong nucleus.

The Lion men, third in the conference a year ago, did not lose a single runner to graduation.

“We will have a good team,” said Tom Rutledge, Southern men’s coach. “How good? We’ll find out in about a week or so.”

The Lions report a week from today for the start of fall practice.

Top returning runners include juniors Jake Benton and Alex Mason and sophomore Eric Schott and Andrew Webster. There’s another good recruiting class to push the veterans, Rutledge indicated.

It will be a busy year for the rain-starved Southern course. In addition to the Missouri Southern Stampede, the Lions will be hosting both the NCAA Division II Central Region meet and the D-II national championships.

The regional competition will be a change from recent seasons, when the Lions were assigned to the South Central meet and their main competition came from Texas schools.

The Southern women finished second in the MIAA last season and the Lions return their top two runners: senior All-American Marlee Tegenkamp and junior Rachel Schrader.

Tegenkamp missed the outdoor track season with an Achilles tendon injury, but has trained most of the summer, said Southern women’s coach Patty Vavra.

Transfers Kaitlyn Belisle and Cassy Kendrick, who saw limited action during the outdoor track season last spring, are expected to provide much-needed depth behind Tegenkamp and Schrader. The Lions, Vavra noted, lost three of their top five runners for a variety of reasons.

Junior Maggie Tennal and sophomores Kylie Brown, Lauren Baehr and Lauren Sanders are all candidates for the top five.

“We’ve got a good solid top three runners,” Vavra said. “It’s going to be key for people to step into those next positions, from 4 through 7 or 8, for us to have a great team.”

Southern runners will open their season on Aug. 31 with a dual at the University of Arkansas.

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