The Illinois State men’s and women’s cross country teams travel to Evansville, Indiana, Saturday, November 1, to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by Evansville at the Angel Mounds Cross Country Course. The men’s 8K is set to start at 10:30 a.m., following the women’s 5K at 11:30 a.m.

The women are picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference Pre-Championship Poll, behind Wichita State and Bradley. The women’s team received a total of 81 points while Wichita State tabbed 87 points and Bradley 99 points. The women seek to win their third title in the last five years, last winning back-to-back Valley championships in 2011 and 2012. Last year, the Redbirds earned runner-up honors behind Bradley.

The Redbird women have a line-up of veteran runners which include Ariel Michalek who has the third-best 6K time in the Valley, Haley Goers (seventh-best 6K time), Kelly McShea (ninth-best 6K time), and Kimi Sanden. Michalek and Goers also hold top-15 5K times in the Valley. McShea and Michalek received All-Conference First Team last year  by placing third and ninth.

“The key for our women is for our top-three runners to compete head-to-head with Bradley and Wichita’s top-three runners,” Illinois State Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Jeff Bovee said. “Based on their performances at Bradley Classic, I think we are positioned well to compete with Bradley and Wichita’s top-three.”

The men are picked to finish fourth with a total of 62 points while tallying one first-place vote. Bradley was favored to win for the men with 77 points and five first-place votes. Indiana State was tabbed to finish second with 66 points and three first-place votes. Wichita State was picked to finish third with a total of 65 points.

The men’s team will be paced by Tyler Morse and Jeff Bajema. Morse received MVC Male Athlete of the Week after his first-place victory at the Country Financial ISU Invitational. Morse holds the sixth-best 8K time in the Valley while Bajema has the seventh-best time. In last year’s championship meet, Morse and Dave Eckhartearned All-Conference Honorable Mention finishing 12th and 13th, respectively.

“On the men’s side, our top-two runners, Tyler Morse and Jeff Bajema, have had their best seasons to date and have been very strong for us,” Bovee said. “Kyle Mattes, a redshirt freshman, has also been a strong finisher for us. If we have our top-three runners on both sides finish in the top-10 we will position ourselves to fight for our first win at the MVC championship since 2002.”

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