LAWRENCE, Kan. (Sporting Alert) — The anticipations are now over and the race-day build-up is now beginning at the Rim Rock Farm here in Lawrence, Kansas, ahead of today’s NAIA Cross Country National Championships.
A total 37 teams and 84 individual qualifiers representing 22 conferences will contest the men’s race, while 36 teams and 76 individuals will compete in the female’s event.
Leading the way on Saturday on the women’s side is the No. 1 ranked and two-time defending national champion British Columbia, who start as the heavy favourites to secure the team crown for a third-straight season.
Leading the charges, meanwhile for the women’s 5k title is Oklahoma Baptist’s speedster Hannah Fields, who again is having another outstanding season.
Last year Fields was runner-up and she is hoping that this time it will be her year as the senior looks to close-out her cross country collegiate career on a winning note.
Standing in her way though will be British Columbia’s All-American Maria Bernard, who was third in 2013 and has been running really well this season.
DEFENDING CHAMP HUNT BACK-TO-BACK MEN’S CROWN
On the men’s side, defending champion and also top-ranked Oklahoma City is the team to beat, following the dominating performances that saw them earning the top spot in the 2014 Coaches’ Top 25 Poll for 10-successive weeks.
Out to challenge the defending champions again this season is the 2013 runner-up Southern Oregon, with the likes of St. Francis (Ill.), Tennessee Wesleyan, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), British Columbia and Indiana Wesleyan also backing their abilities to upset the Stars, who are being led by All-American Peter Koskey, who is a junior from Keringet, Kenya.
On the individual side Benard Keter of Wayland Baptist has been having an outstanding year and on paper, he will start as the man to beat in the 8,000m here at Rim Rock Farm.
But expected to be in the battle as well for the men’s individual crown are Robert Morris (Ill.) senior Mizael Carrera, who was third last year, Damion Flores of Eastern Oregon, Isaac Lalang of Texas Wesleyan and Matthew Clowes of Concordia (Ore.), who has ran as fast as 23:56 this season.