Men's Cross Country picked first in MVC preseason poll

    Junior Brian Dixon returns in 2012 after notching four top-ten finishes in 2011.

    Junior Brian Dixon returns in 2012 after notching four top-ten finishes in 2011.

    Aug. 20, 2012

    By Tyler Wooten

    MVC ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    ST. LOUIS -- The Southern Illinois men's cross country team has been picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference in 2012, the MVC announced today in its preseason poll.

    The Salukis received 74 points in the MVC poll, including seven first-place votes. 2011 MVC champion Indiana State came in second with 65 points and one first-place vote.

    The Saluki men return three All-MVC runners from last season -- juniors Zach Dahleen and Brian Dixon, and sophomore Cole Allison. The Saluki trio combined for eleven top-10 finishes in 2011.

    "I think (the ranking) will give them confidence to perform, but we also know that there's an 'X' on our backs this year," head coach Matt Sparks said of the men's team. "You have to come out and prove that ranking on race day."

    Southern's women's team was voted to finish fourth in the Valley, tallying 68 points and falling behind Wichita State, Bradley, and 2011 champion Illinois State, who all received first-place votes.

    The Saluki women lost Jamie Pfister, but return last season's top runner in Lacey Gibson. Gibson notched five top-20 finishes in seven meets last season, including two top-five finishes.

    The Salukis open the season at home with the Saluki Early Bird on Aug. 31.

    2012 MVC Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll
    1. Southern Illinois 74 (7)
    2. Indiana State 65 (1)
    3. Drake 64
    4. Wichita State 57 (1)
    5. Illinois State 49
    6. Bradley 34
    7. UNI 26
    8. Evansville 23
    9. Creighton 13

    2012 MVC Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll
    1. Illinois State 96 (7)
    2. Bradley 83 (1)
    3. Wichita State 82 (2)
    4. Southern Illinois 68
    T5. Indiana State 53
    T5. Missouri State 53
    7. UNI 43
    8. Drake 28
    9. Evansville 26
    10. Creighton 18