MVC Releases Cross Country Polls

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Chris Culhane
Courtesy: White and Blue Review (www.whiteandbluereview.com)

ST. LOUIS (mvc-sports.com) – The Indiana State men and Wichita State women have been tabbed as the 2011 favorites for a second consecutive year by a vote of Missouri Valley Conference cross country coaches in their annual preseason poll. Creighton is picked eighth on the men's side, while the women were tabbed 10th.

After winning last year's State Farm MVC Cross Country Championship and returning five of the seven members on the championship squad, the league coaches picked Indiana State  to claim the men's title in 2011.  The Sycamores received six first-place votes and a total of 77 points.  Junior Albaro Escalera and seniors Craig Padgett and Jeremiah Vaughan, who all earned All-Conference honors at the 2010 Championship after finishing in the top-five, will lead the charge this year.

Southern Illinois, the 2010 State Farm MVC Championship runner-up, was picked as a close second in the preseason poll, with the remaining three first-place votes and 74 points.  Even though the Salukis lost last year's defending champion Dan Dunbar to graduation, they have a strong core coming back. Neal Anderson, Zach Dahleen and Lucas Cherry will lead the team as the top-returners after finishing 13th, 14th and 19th, respectively, last year.  Also back is Brian Dixon who placed in 2010 as a freshman.

Drake came in at the No. 3 spot earning 58 points.  The team will look to seniors Ben Jaskowiak and Colin Hagan to lead the way after they were the Bulldogs' top two finishers last year, each crossing the line in the top-30.  Sophomores Brogan Austin and Omet Kat will add depth to the roster.

Illinois State notched the fourth position in the preseason poll, tallying 51 points, despite the fact that they graduated their top-four finishers from the 2010 State Farm MVC Cross Country Championship.  Senior John Navarro (27th) and red shirt junior Mat Smoody  (40th) will provide leadership to a talented young team.

Northern Iowa is picked fifth, securing 47 points and returning five of their top-seven finishers from the MVC Championship in 2010.  Juniors Brett Egan (8th) and Ryan Krogman (22nd) along with senior Aaron Vosberg (25th) will look to blaze the trails for the Panthers and make their mark as the 2011 season starts.

Wichita State is picked sixth with 37 points, while Bradley took the seventh spot having 30 points.  The Shockers return three of their top four runners from its 2010 squad.  The junior-senior trio of  Jake Wike Jr., Jackson Toroitich and Scott Ufford will pace the team again this year.  The Braves bring back three of the seven runners who scored at the 2010 Championship.  Junior Jon Richards was Bradley's top-finisher last year and will look to guide the newcomers, Chase Coffey, Eric Delvo and Marshall Moyer.

Creighton and Evansville round out the men's poll in eighth and ninth place, respectively.

The Jays' are the only team on the men's side to return everyone from their 2010 Conference squad.  Redshirt junior Chris Culhane looks to add to his Jays' career by having a strong year.  The Purple Aces will be under the guidance of senior Brian Denny, sophomore Andrew Barrett and junior Cody Stein.

After claiming its sixth-straight women's MVC Championship team title in 2010, Wichita State is the preseason favorite getting five first-place votes for 93 points.  The Shockers' will have strong senior leadership under Patrober Murindat (12th), Scarla Nero (13th), Danielle Walker (19th) and Sharon Zeller (30th).  Junior Aliphine Tuliamuk will add depth to the roster, strengthening the 2011 team.  

Illinois State was an extremely close second as they received four first-place votes totaling 92 points.  The Redbirds' bring back a solid returning core of Aisha Praught (senior) and Kristen Zillmer (sophomore).  Praught finished in seventh-place in 2010 with Zillmer right behind her in 21st.

Bradley, who sits in the third slot with 70 points, will be a young team in the 2011 season with their top-two returners being Whitney Schumacher and Cassie Lohmeier.  The sophomore duo will help set the pace for the six key athletes that were added in the offseason.  The Braves will look to improve on their 2010 season finish and be a contender for the 2011 MVC Crown.

Missouri State tallied 65 points and fourth-place.  Junior Terry Phillips and sophomore Emily Beaver will help push the Bears to the finish line after their top-twenty finish at the 2010 State Farm MVC Cross Country Championship, eighth and 16th, respectively.

Southern Illinois came in a close fifth earning 62 points with four of the six runners who competed in last year's championship returning.  Not only will Jamie Pfister provide the Salukis with senior leadership, but she will be their top runner as she finished 18th in 2010.  Pfisfter will have support from sophomore Eileen Schweiss and senior Kristain Baldwin who both bring championship experience to the table.

Indiana State is picked sixth with a total of 59 points and the remaining first-place vote.  The Sycamores return five of their seven scorers from their fourth-place squad.  Jessica Zangmeister (sophomore), Kacie Klem (senior) and Kylee Thacker (junior) will take the team towards the finish line.

Drake notched the seventh position with 38 points as they will be a young team after the Bulldogs lost their top-four finishers from the 2010 season.  Sophomore Erin Poss and senior Kirsten Lake return for another season.

Northern Iowa earned eighth in the preseason poll with 34 points, while Evansville (23) and Creighton (14) round out the final positions.

Northern Iowa welcomes back five of its top-seven competitors, including junior Hayley Thomas, the Panthers top finisher (26th) from last season's squad.  Carly Olson, Scotti Schon and Leah Blanchard will also be on the trails to provide veteran experience.

Evansville returns every runner from its 2010 squad while also adding several newcomers.  Junior Lauren Zeabart should once again be towards the front of the pack for the Purple Aces' as she was one their top finishers last year.  Kelby Jenkins and Melissa Truex will add depth to the roster.

Three of the seven scorers for Creighton are back for another year with Meagan Wilderson, Isabelle Squires and Lauren Hintz at the helm.  The incoming freshmen have a big opportunity ahead of them as they will be able to make an impact from the start for the Jays. 

2011 Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll   2011 Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll   
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points  Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points 
1. Indiana State (6) 77 1. Wichita State (5) 93
2. Southern Illinois (3) 74 2. Illinois State (4) 92
3. Drake 58 3. Bradley 70
4. Illinois State 51 4. Missouri State 65
5. Northern Iowa 47 5. Southern Illinois 62
6. Wichita State 37 6. Indiana State (1) 59
7. Bradley 30 7. Drake 38
8. Creighton 16 8. Northern Iowa 34
9. Evansville 15 9. Evansville 23
      10. Creighton 14
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