Saluki men repeat as MVC Champions, Saluki women win first title since 1992

    Sophomore Kristen Levi finished third overall, earning All-MVC honors.

    Sophomore Kristen Levi finished third overall, earning All-MVC honors.

    Nov. 2, 2013

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    Men's ResultsGet Acrobat Reader | Women's ResultsGet Acrobat Reader

    By Tyler Wooten

    DES MOINES, Iowa -- Saluki cross country will come back to Carbondale with two Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championship trophies after sweeping the MVC Championships at Drake University on Saturday.

    This is the first time since 1989 that the same school has swept the MVC cross country championships (Illinois State), and only the second time since 1987 that the same head coach has won both titles (Wichita State, John Kornelson).

    This is the 14th men's MVC title in SIU history and the second championship in as many years for the Saluki men and Coach Sparks, who now owns five MVC men's titles in his tenure at SIU. That total ties Bill Cornell for the most men's titles in school history and ties for the fourth-most in conference history as well. Including today's women's title, Sparks is now the winningest cross country coach in SIU history with six titles.

    After posting five All-MVC runners in 2012, the Saluki men posted yet another solid performance with three all-conference runners and two more in the top-15 that narrowly missed out on the distinction -- all contributing to a dominant 59-point victory over newcomer Loyola. Zach Dahleen (fourth, 24:30.3), Nick Schrader (fifth, 24:31.3) and Oscar Medina (sixth, 24:35.4) all finished within five seconds of each other in the top-10.

    Senior and 2012 NCAA Qualifier Brian Dixon finished within three seconds of his third-straight all-conference honor in 11th place (24:50.0). Right behind him was Juan Carrera, who finished 12th at 24:57.7.

    "On the men's side, you always have to be excited to repeat," said head coach Matt Sparks. "Anytime you can win a conference title, that's something you have to be excited about."

    "Zach (Dahleen) ran for the win today," Sparks said. "He came so close behind (Indiana State's John) Mascari last year, but Zach faded a bit at the end here today. It was good to see all those guys we had return this year step up and run well. If we were going to repeat those guys had to do what we did last year."

    "We're excited to send our seniors out on top," Sparks said. "Zach, Brian (Dixon) and T.J. Heffernan, those guys have been exceptional in their time at SIU and it was good to send them out in this fashion."

    The Saluki women captured their first MVC title since 1992 (Don DeNoon) and only their second championship ever on Saturday in an exciting and competitive 5K race. Southern was down by eight points at midway point and made an impressive charge for the victory, besting pre-championship favorite Bradley by 20 points.

    SIU also placed three All-MVC runners on the women's side, the most ever under Coach Sparks. Kristen Levi (third, 17:30.3), Sadie Darnell (fourth, 17:33.4) and Kelley Gallagher (fifth, 17:41.6) each earned the distinction. Krista Menghini (12th, 17:55.3), Tori Parry (19th, 18:18.7) and Lacey Gibson (20th, 18:19.1) all finished within the top-20, sealing the momentous victory for the Saluki women.

    "(Track and field head coach) Connie (Price-Smith) and I have been working toward this for the women for over 12 years now, so this is extremely special," Sparks said. "This group is very talented, and they fought through quite a bit to get here."

    "It was a real tight race, but we made a lot of strong moves over the last 2K to seal the win," Sparks said.

    "Kristen (Levi) was huge today," Sparks said. "To come back from her injury just a few weeks ago and run the way she did today, she really came out like a champion."

    Saluki cross country will now look to make a splash on the national scene at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Ames Iowa on Fri., Nov. 15.

    Men's Team Results:
    1. Southern Illinois - 38
    2. Loyola - 97
    3. Illinois State - 102
    4. Bradley - 104
    5. Northern Iowa - 125
    6. Wichita State - 125
    7. Indiana State - 126
    8. Drake - 174
    9. Evansville - 245

    Women's Team Results:
    1. Southern Illinois - 43
    2. Bradley - 63
    3. Illinois State - 66
    4. Loyola - 87
    5. Wichita State - 123
    6. Drake - 171
    7. Indiana State - 192
    8. Evansville - 211
    9. Northern Iowa - 217
    10. Missouri State - 317

    Men's Individual Results:
    4. Zach Dahleen - 24:30.3 *
    5. Nick Schrader - 24:31.3 *
    6. Oscar Medina - 24:35.4 *
    11. Brian Dixon - 24:50.0
    12. Juan Carrera - 24:57.7
    21. T.J. Heffernan - 25:17.7
    27. Cole Allison - 25:30.0
    46. Evan Ehrenheim - 26:13.0

    Men's Individual Results:
    3. Kristen Levi - 17:30.3 *
    4. Sadie Darnell - 17:33.4 *
    5. Kelley Gallagher - 17:41.6 *
    12. Krista Menghini - 17:55.3
    19. Tori Parry - 18:18.7
    20. Lacey Gibson - 18:19.1
    35. Mobola Rotibi - 18:46.2
    38. Eileen Schweiss - 18:56.6

    * = All-MVC