The group, ranked fifth in the NAIA, raced to a fourth-place finish at Saturday's national championships, the best finish in school history.
"You have to rank this Shawnee team near the top that has come through in any sport," SSU head coach Eric Putnam said.
Leading the Bears was senior Corey Culbertson. The 24th-fastest finisher of 323 competitors, Culbertson joined Keegan Rathkamp (2008) as the only All-Americans in SSU mens cross country history.
"Corey's had a great 2009," Putnam said. "He ran a lot of really strong track meets and really come into his own in the last year and a half... He sacrificed a lot to come back for a fifth year. He probably could have graduated but he wanted to see what he could do."
While Culbertson's run closed out a successful career, the day's most impressive individual feat belonged to Galen Dills. The freshman transfer from Ohio State came out of the start strong, perhaps too strong, losing one of his shoes a half-mile into the race. With temperatures in the low-40s and a muddy course, he completed the last four-and-a-half miles wearing just one shoe.
Dills finished 49th with a time of 26:06, and was the Bears' second-fastest runner.
"You hate to say something like most or greatest or ever," Putnam said. "But I can't remember anything in terms of mental toughness that I was more impressed by than that... He's such a tremendously tough kid. How does somebody run that far in the mud with that competition and place that high? With the shoes on, he could have been an All-American today."
Sophomore Shane Meyer (26:14), junior Josh Linkous (26:20) and senior Tyler Hickney (26:25) rounded out SSU's scoring.
"I think Tyler, that was probably the best race he's run in his life," Putnam said. "The time's not reflective of how great he did. He passed probably 20 people in the last half mile. It's just a trememdous way for him to end his running career. Tyler was probably the prototype runner of SSU's program... He is the kind of kid I still look for time and time again in recruiting."
The Bears finished behind now three-time national champion Malone, Concordia (Neb.) and Southern Oregon in the meet. Malone's run solidified the AMC as one of the nation's toughest conferences according to Putnam.
"That tells you about the strength of the American Mideast Conference," he said. "SSU gets fourth in nationals and still didn't win their own conference. Malone clearly was the class of the field again today... The AMC had, I think, 10 All-Americans out of 60 in the nation."
Also racing at nationals Saturday were three members of the womens team who qualified as individuals.
Freshman Tisha Grove finished 132nd with a time of 20:06 while Brittney Lipira and Kasey Hosier ran times of 20:51 and 21:00 respectively.
"Our goal was to get as many out there as we could to get a feel for it," Putnam said. "The women had a tough year just being in the shadows of an incredible men's team. It's easy to forget the women finished 3rd in the AMC and were in the top 25 a couple time. It's super that we had two freshmen and a sophomore make it out here. The women are excited for next year. It was a huge experience for them to get ther this year. Next year, they've got hopes of placing fairly high."