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Malone (Ohio) Men Garner Third-Straight No. 1 Preseason Cross Country Rating

August 26, 2009
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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