Courtesy: Steve Klotz
CEDAR CITY, Utah – The Southern Utah University cross country teams have been selected second on the men’s side and fifth among the women according to the Big Sky Conference coaches preseason poll. The Thunderbird men finished as the runner up at last year’s Big Sky Championship before going on to a seventh-place performance at the Mountain Regional. The SUU women posted a fifth-place finish at conference and 12th in the region.
“Going into just our third year in the Big Sky and receiving first place votes with NAU, who is one of the top teams in the country, is truly a compliment to our program,” commented head coach Eric Houle.
On the men’s side, the Thunderbirds are ranked just behind Northern Arizona who tops the poll with 10 first place votes and 142 overall points. SUU followed with two first place votes and 133 points. Following SUU in the poll were Weber State, Montana State and Idaho who rounded out the top five.
“We believe that by adding new runners to the group like Keeghan Hurley and our other signees, we will continue to get even stronger and move up in the national rankings,” Houle said. “Bringing that quality of athlete into the Big Sky makes the conference even more competitive.“
Southern Utah returns Mike Tate who finished eighth at the NACAC XC Championship. Nate Jewkes, who finished fourth in the 5,000-meters and fifth in the 3,000-meters at the Summit League Championship, will also be returning this fall after being out for the 2013 season.
The rest of the men’s poll includes Eastern Washington in the sixth spot, followed by Idaho State, Montana, Sacramento State, Portland State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado.
On the women’s side, Southern Utah earned 94 points to rank fifth in the poll. NAU was tabbed on the favorite for the women as well with nine first place votes and 141 points. Weber State came in second followed by Eastern Washington in third and Montana State just ahead of SUU in the fourth spot.
“Being selected as one of the top five teams on the women’s side in such a big league shows that you are expected to compete,” Houle stated. “We have a lot of talented women this year and I believe we could finish higher than the top five and even among the top three.”
Aubrey Bryson will be returning for the Thunderbirds as she finished 67th at Mountain Region last year with a time of 22:00.2. Sierra Malm and Ashley Hawks will return for Southern Utah as they finished the 6k course at Mountain Region with times of 22:13.3 and 22:14.7 as they raced to a 78th and 79th finish.
The rest of the women’s poll is as follows: Montana (6) Idaho (7), Sacramento State (8), Northern Colorado (9), North Dakota (10), Idaho State (11) and Portland State (12).
Southern Utah University will begin their season on Friday, Aug. 29, as they travel to Pocatello for the Idaho State Invitational.