Cross Country teams prepare for NCAA Regionals

    Nov. 10, 2005

    Matt Crouch

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - After taking the week off following the MVC Championships, the Southern Illinois University cross country teams return to action Saturday at the NCAA Midwest Regionals in Iowa City, Iowa.

    More than 30 teams from around the Midwest Region will gather at the University of Iowa's Ashton Cross Country Course for a shot at making it to the NCAA National Championship in Terre Haute, Ind.

    SIU Head Cross Country Coach Matt Sparks is excited about the meet because of the recent performance of Joe Byrne and Sarah Rinker.

    "For the first time in a long time, we can look at a couple individuals and say that these guys have a legitimate shot to qualify for nationals," said Sparks.

    Byrne has improved with each of the four meets that he has competed in this year, recording a personal best 24:23.56 in the 8K at the MVC Championship in Evansville, Ind.

    "One of the different things about this meet for the guys is that it is a 10K, something that the guys have not raced all year. That will play into Joe's hands pretty well as he is the conference champion in the 10K," said Sparks.

    Rinker also posted a personal-best 17:00.52 in the 5K at the MVC Championship.

    "Sarah has a good shot at qualifying individually. She will be racing against two of the girls that heat her at the conference meet, so we would like to be more competitive with them," said Sparks.

    Sparks is also curious to see how the freshmen men adjust to running a 10K. Freshmen Mohamed Mohamed and Brad Pirok have stepped up and competed well this season, adjusting to collegiate running faster than Sparks expected.

    "It will be interesting to see how the freshmen guys make that transition from running 8Ks most of the year to running a 10K. They've adjusted well from high school to college racing, so i don't expect the difference between 8K and 10K to be much of a shock for them," said Sparks.

    Both teams have been preparing since the Oct. 29 MVC Championship and are looking good, according to Sparks.

    "Training has been going real well and everyone is healthy," said Sparks. "We had a lot of aches and pains early in the year on both sides and I think everybody at this point has got those out of the way."

    Action is set to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday with the men's 10K. The women will follow at 12:15 p.m. in the 8K.

    Participating Universities:
    Bradley University
    Chicago State University
    Creighton University
    DePaul University
    Drake University
    Eastern Illinois University
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    University of Illinois
    Illinois State University
    University of Iowa
    Iowa State University
    University of Kansas
    Kansas State University
    Loyola University (Illinois)
    University of Minnesota
    University of Missouri
    University of Missouri at Kansas City
    Missouri State University
    University of Nebraska
    Northern Illinois University
    University of Northern Iowa
    Northwestern University
    University of Oklahoma
    Oklahoma State University
    Oral Roberts University
    Saint Louis University
    Southeast Missouri State University
    Southern Illinois University
    University of Tulsa
    Western Illinois University
    Wichita State University