PORTSMOUTH – The Shawnee State men’s cross country team has been ranked as the No. 14 team in the country according to coaches from around the NAIA realm as the NAIA released the 2015 Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll on Thursday.
The Bears, who lose only one runner – 2014 Mid-South Conference First-Team member, All-Academic Mid-South member, NAIA Scholar-Athlete, and three-time NAIA National Championship Appearance member Joe Stewart, bring back five NAIA National Qualifiers from last season, including Will Doering, who has made two NAIA National Championship Appearances. Additionally, Doering was an First-Team All-Mid South runner last season.
In addition to Doering, Ethan Richter, Nick McAfee, Cody Redman, and Kyle Dyer each qualified at the NAIA National Championships in 2014, with Richter and Dyer earning Mid-South First-Team and Second-Team honors, respectively.
Doering is the top returning finisher for Shawnee State in the NAIA National Championships as the rising senior finished with a time of 26:18.1 to finish in 83rd place in leading the Bears to a 17th place finish at the event. McAfee, Redman, Gates, and Richter all finished in the top 200 for the event, as the quadrant of runners, along with Doering, finished with a time of 27:09.9 or better. Dyer rounded out the list of competitors in the event for the Bears, as the junior ran a 28:24.6 to finish in 273rd place.
Shawnee State also welcomes in a large freshman class that consists of runners such as Seth Farmer, David Jaeger, and Issac Mertic. All three individuals qualified for the OHSAA Cross Country State Championships, with Farmer and Jaeger finishing in the top 40 in their respective classes.
As far as the entire poll is concerned, Southern Oregon was given the No. 1 slot in the preseason. The Raiders, who have finished second in the NAIA national rankings in each of the past three seasons, were given 17 first-place votes, with second-place Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) garnering the other pair.
The Bears will be looking to capture their sixth straight Mid-South Conference championship this season, with Shawnee State finishing in the top 10 at the NAIA National Championships in four of the last five seasons since joining the Mid-South.