Aug. 26, 2009
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two-time defending national champion Malone University (Ohio) has been selected as the No. 1 team in the NAIA Men's Cross Country Top 25 Preseason Coaches' Poll, the NAIA announced Wednesday. The Pioneers received 18-of-20 first-place votes and earned 559 points. Aquinas College (Mich.) is ranked second, followed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.), Simon Fraser University (B.C.) and Concordia University (Neb.) to round out the top five.
The Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and the American Mideast Conference each had a trio of teams represented in the preseason poll. Representing the WHAC is No. 2 Aquinas, No. 16 Cornerstone University (Mich.) and No. 24 Indiana Institute of Technology. Top-ranked Malone, No. 12 Cedarville University (Ohio) and No.18 Shawnee State University (Ohio) made the poll for the AMC.
Malone enters the 2009 season returning a trio of All-Americans in senior Paul Robinson and juniors Aaron Melhorn and James Zeuch. The only component lost from last season's championship run is Nikolaus Schweikert, who finished as the national runner-up. Behind Schweikert, Melborn captured fifth-place honors, followed by Robinson in 11th-place and Zeuch finished 16th. Three other members of last year's squad will also play a vital role as the Pioneers aim for their third-straight and fourth overall national title.
The Pioneers are no stranger to owning the No. 1 spot in the men's cross country circuit. Wednesday's poll marks the 23rd-straight week that the Pioneers have been regarded as the nation's top team, dating back to 2007.
Placing third last year in Kenosha, Wis., at the national race, second-ranked Aquinas will be looking to dethrone the Pioneers. The Saints earned one first-place vote and tallied 562 points. Leading the way for Aquinas will be a pair of all-WHAC performers in senior Rob Veldman and junior Nate Poirier. Poirier placed 36th and Veldman was 48th at the national race in 2008.
Embry-Riddle returns all but one of its top-10 runners from a seventh-place finish in 2008 and is tabbed as the No. 3 team in the preseason poll with 549 points. Although the Eagles did not have an All-American a year ago, Sam Vazquez and Nick Gehlsen placed 33rd and 34th, respectively. Vazquez is the defending The Sun Conference's Runner of the Year.
Simon Fraser is listed at No. 4 in the preseason poll with 527 points, with one first-place vote. Despite finishing 24th in Kenosha last season, the Clan returns a powerful lineup with four runners in senior David Wambui, juniors Ryan Brockerville and Mitch Culley, along with sophomore Keir Forster. Brockerville was Simon Fraser's lone All-American in 2008, placing 30th. In addition to a veteran lineup, Simon Fraser has also brought aboard NCAA Division I transfer Kevin Friesen.
Rounding out the top-five preseason teams is Concordia with 503 points. The Bulldogs enter the 2009 campaign following a sixth-place finish at the national race last season. Five seniors will play a pivotal role for Concordia. Among those five are All-Americans Zach Meineke (2008) and Luka Thor (2005, 2006). Meineke placed 17th a year ago, while Thor missed his third All-America accolade, crossing the line 43rd.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences.The first regular season poll of the 2009 season will be released on Sept. 16.
|RANK||LAST POLL^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Malone University (Ohio) (18)||559|
|2||3||Aquinas College (Mich.) (1)||528|
|3||6||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.)||515|
|4||19||Simon Fraser University (B.C.) (1)||496|
|5||7||Concordia University (Neb.)||475|
|6||10||California State University-San Marcos||462|
|7||13||Concordia University (Ore.)||459|
|8||9||Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)||412|
|9||18||Shorter College (Ga.)||404|
|10||4||Southern Oregon University||394|
|11||12||Black Hills State University (S.D.)||358|
|12||14||Cedarville University (Ohio)||324|
|13||8||Huntington University (Ind.)||304|
|14||RV||Southwestern College (Kan.)||288|
|15||RV||Wayland Baptist University (Texas)||283|
|16||NR||Cornerstone University (Mich.)||278|
|17||25||Doane College (Neb.)||261|
|18||20||Shawnee State University (Ohio)||250|
|19||11||Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho)||231|
|20||17||Lindenwood University (Mo.)||217|
|21||RV||Milligan College (Tenn.)||191|
|22||RV||Taylor University (Ind.)||178|
|23||RV||Oklahoma Baptist University||151|
|24||5||Indiana Institute of Technology||149|
|25||NR||University of British Columbia||141|
Others receiving votes: Eastern Oregon University (117); Indiana Wesleyan University (114); Dana College (Neb.) (59); Oklahoma Christian University (55); Kansas Wesleyan University (55); McKendree University (Ill.) (48); College of Idaho (44); Lee University (Tenn.) (42); Friends University (Kan.) (18); Bryan College (Tenn.) (17); Hastings College (Neb.) 7; Houghton College (N.Y) (6); Siena Heights University (Mich.) (6); University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) (5); Berea College (Ky.) (3); University of South Carolina - Beaufort (S.C.) (1); Northwood University (Texas) (1); Dakota State University (S.D.) (1); Johnson & Wales University (Colo.) (1); Central Methodist University (Mo.) (1); Soka University of America (Calif.) (1).
^ Last poll on Nov. 9, 2008