Nov. 7, 2012
Columbia, Mo. - It's another meet week for the Mizzou Cross Country teams, as they gear up for Friday's NCAA Midwest Regional Championship in Springfield, MO. Hosted by Missouri State University, the meet will boast some of the top teams in the nation who will fight it out for spots at the November 17th NCAA National Championship. Both teams will look to improve upon their 7th place finishes last year.
On the men's side, there will be seven ranked teams battling for the two automatic spots at the NCAA Championship. Oklahoma State currently sits atop the NCAA rankings, along with No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 19 Tulsa, No. 29 Kansas, and No. 31 Illinois. Missouri, who has broken into the top 30 during the season, currently holds the No. 32 spot after their 3rd place finish at the SEC Championship on October 26th.
The Tigers were led by junior Hayden Legg (Mexico, MO) at the SEC Championship, after he ran to a personal best time of 24:08.24 and an 8th place finish. Senior Max Storms (Kansas City, MO) was just behind in 9th place, followed by sophomore Bryant Blahnik (Red Wing, MN), who took 11th. All three were named to the All-SEC Second Team.
Legg, who also led Missouri at last year's Midwest Regional with a 20th place finish, will aim to add another All-Region honor to his resume on Friday. Storms, who has been a consistent leader for the Tigers over his four-year career, will look to lead a young and deep Missouri team back to the NCAA Championships for the first time in 12 years.
"For us our focus all year has been to take care of our own business and run to our fullest potential that day. If we do that on Friday, I feel the results will be very positive," said second year Head Coach, Joe Lynn. "We have a very deep team that has some great experience, yet some youth. These guys know they are not only running for themselves, but the rest of their teammates and our program as a whole."
The Tigers will also look to freshman Evan Chiplock
(Saginaw, MI), who earned All-SEC Freshman Team honors, juniors Merid Seleshi
(Ontario, Canada) and Tyler Compton
(Buffalo, MO), and sophomore Sam Dickerson
"The key for us will be how tight we are in that 3-5 gap. The great thing is, I believe any of our top 7 guys can run in our top 2 any given race," said Lynn. "These guys are confident and comfortable with each other. No big egos. No `me first' attitudes. That's what it's going to take on Friday."
The Lady Tigers will also face a difficult field as they go up against No. 2 Iowa State, who they faced at their first meet this season, along with No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 28 Minnesota. The Lady Tigers will be led by senior Bailey Belvis (Prosper, TX), who will look to repeat her All-Region performance from the last two seasons.
"Bailey has been a great leader for our women's team this fall. It would mean a lot to see her have a great race on Friday," said Lynn, who is in his first season as women's Head Coach.
Sophomores Courtney Brown (Palatine, IL), Courtney Wood (Neosho, MO), Ali Ross (St. Louis, MO) and hometown girl Liz Reida (Springfield, MO), along with freshmen Sam Garrett (Columbia, MO) and Faith Summey (Eldoret, Kenya) will round out the women's squad, whose last National Championship appearance was in 2004.
"It's been gratifying watching these girls progress this fall. There is a lot of talent on the line for us on Friday, we're excited to see what we can do," said Lynn.
The top two teams from each Region, and the top four individual finishers not on one of those teams earn automatic spots at the National Championship. At-large teams and individuals are also chosen through a standard selection formula which begins after all NCAA Regional Championships have concluded. In all, 31 teams, 18 automatic and 13 at-large, will qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville, KY on November 17th.
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