SOU aims for fast start at nationals

One more race. That's all the Southern Oregon University men's cross country has left in what has already been the most successful cross country season in program history.

Of course that race is the NAIA National Championships. The fourth-ranked Raiders travel to Kenosha, Wis., for Saturday's National Championships.

Running for SOU will be Cameron Kreuz, David Laney, Ryan Ghelfi, Ryan Matz, Anthony Monteleone, Joe Rath and Chris Paterson. Only Kreuz has experience at the National Championships, qualifying as an individual last year.

So how does first year head coach Brent Ericksen expect his Raiders to perform under the big lights of the national stage? No different than any other race.

"They've been doing it every other week so far this season," Ericksen said. "They trust us and we trust them. This is just a special team."

The Raiders have yet to lose to an NAIA team this season. The two teams to beat SOU were NCAA Division I power Oregon and NCAA Division II stalwart Chico State.

At the Cascade Conference championships, the Raiders showed their team concept by running together and easily out-distancing second place Concordia 38-64. All seven of SOU's runners finished in the top 21 and Kreuz finished second behind Concordia's Eric Burck.

"They ran really well," said Ericksen, who was named Cascade Conference coach of the year. "We wanted to start out fast because with that size of a field, teams would get spread out if they waited and that's what happened. Our strength is running five miles and it began to show at about the fourth mile that we had the race under control."

Ericksen says the Raiders need to run a similar race Saturday.

"With 335 people on the course, it's a huge race," Ericksen said. "We don't want to get trapped behind people so we can't pass. That first mile is going to be critical."

SOU enters the meet ranked fourth in the nation, the highest ranking in the history of the program. The top spot in the poll is held down by defending national champion Malone (Ohio). Malone is followed by Azusa Pacific, Aquinas (Mich.) and Southern Oregon.

"Malone is a very impressive team," Ericksen said.

"It's going to take an incredible day to beat them but I think we all have a shot."

Share This Story