Cross Country prepares for high expectations in 2010 season

    Megan Hoelscher

    Megan Hoelscher

    Aug. 25, 2010

    By Michael Benson

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Saluki cross country team will look to return to form in 2010 as expectations are high on both the men's and women's teams.

    Despite losing All-American Jeff Schirmer and fellow standout Mohamed Mohamed to graduation, the SIU men return all-MVC runners in Dan Dunbar and Kyle Kirchner for the upcoming season. Both Dunbar and Kirchner will look lead the way as Southern Illinois looks to recapture the MVC crown from Indiana State, who defeated the Salukis at last year's MVC Cross Country Championship by a single point.

    Both SIU and ISU tied for first place in the MVC preseason poll with 74 points each.

    "We have developed a nice, healthy rivalry with Indiana State over the last couple of years," cross country head coach Matt Sparks said. "I expect that to continue again as we challenge each other for the MVC title."

    The Salukis will also usher in a youth movement of sorts, as the team features a total of eight freshmen and sophomores on their roster. Included in the underclassmen are freshmen Cole Allison (Festus, Mo.) and Brian Dixon (Springfield, Ill.), both of whom earned all-state honors during their senior seasons.

    "We will look to seniors Dan Dunbar and Kyle Kirchner to be our leaders on the course and in the locker room," Sparks said."They both have a great understanding of what we are working towards and how to mentor the younger guys on the team."



    On the women's side, the Salukis return two top 25 MVC finishers from a season ago in Megan Hoelscher and Emily Toennies. The team also hopes to bounce back from last season's sixth place finish in the conference and move up in the final standings.

    Also leading the way for the Salukis will be senior Toni Whitfield and junior Jamie Pfister, who both competed in last season's MVC championship.

    "We return nearly everyone from last year's squad but we feel that our front years improved significantly from last year," Sparks said. "With Emily Toennies and Megan Hoelscher chasing after top 5 individual finishes the team should improve upon last year's sixth place."

    "Jamie Pfister has consistently run in our top five for the last two years and we expect her to make similar contributions again.She finished 20th at the MVC meet in the 2008 and need her to stay healthy and improve upon that finish this year."

    Like the men, the women's team also boasts a strong recruiting class with four-time all-Missouri cross country honoree Eileen Schweiss (Festus, Mo.) and Kaylyn Shaw (Riverton, Ill.).

    "The women's team will also need freshman athletes to contribute," Sparks said."Eileen Schweiss was Missouri state cross country champion in 2008. Her impact on the team will be seen immediately."

    The Salukis open their 2010 campaign on Sept. 3, when they host the Saluki Early Bird meet. The team will also host the annual Saluki Invitational on Sept. 25.