The Shawnee State men’s and women’s cross country squads, which will be led by longtime head coach Eric Putnam and first-year head coach John Williams — the latter a 2010 Hall of Famer — will participate in seven meets during the 2019 regular season and will host the Fall Bear Run once more, as announced by the program this past week.
The men, who ran their way to a 13th-place showing in last year’s NAIA Cross Country Championships, bring back each of their top seven scoring runners (Seth Farmer, Josh Metzung, Steven Adams, Hunter Hoover, Owen Reeher, Thryceton Deckard, and Hunter Bennington) from a unit that finished just 39 points back of a top-10 showing.
Farmer, who was the unit’s best runner in the event, placed 12th by collecting a time of 24:49 en route to capping off a season where the harrier won Mid-South Conference Runner of the Year honors with his conference championship-winning time of 25:24 while adding in a second-place finish at the season-opening MSC Preview and a fourth-place showing at the #JennaStrong Fall Classic (24.57). Adams, Hoover, Reeher, and Metzung also finished inside the top-10 overall at the Mid-South Conference Championships.
The women, who finished 28th despite not having standout runner Brooke Smith at their disposal for the NAIA National Championships, bring back five of their top seven scoring runners from last year’s NAIA National Championships, including their top three runners at the event (Marissa Smith, Jessica Cook, and Jessica Price) from last year.
Marissa Smith, Cook, and Price, who finished 44th (18:23), 91st (18:53), and 141st (19:25), respectively, at the event, collected marks of 19:01, 19:20, and 19:28 at the Mid-South Conference Championships, where the pair finished 1-2-3 as Smith won MSC Runner of the Year honors and was joined on the MSC First-Team by Cook and Price. Mallory Spencer’s 10th place (20:01) gave the SSU women four top-ten harriers at the MSC Championships. They’ll each be joined by Brooke Smith, who returns following a season where the top-flight runner dealed with injury. In 2017, Smith won the Mid-South Conference’s Runner of the Year Award, collected four MSC Runner of the Week accolades, and finished 97th at the NAIA National Championships.
They will be coached by Williams, who returns to Shawnee State after collecting a star-studded career under former Shawnee State men’s cross country head coach Larry Mangus. Williams, who ran inside the men’s cross country program from 2000 to 2003, was a two-time All-American Mideast Conference runner as well as a two-time NAIA Qualifier, which led to his aforementioned induction into the SSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. He held the fastest time in program history (24:45) upon his graduation.
Putnam’s men and Williams’ women, who will be looking for their first top-10s at the NAIA Championships since both programs obtained a 10th and a ninth place finish, respectively, in 2016, will open their season with the annual Mid-South Conference Preview, which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Bowling Green, Ky. A trip to East Lansing, Mich. for the Michigan State Spartan Invitational follows six days later on Friday, Sept. 13.
Following those two events, the harriers take a break before jumping right back into work with four events over a two-and-a-half week stretch, starting with the annual Fall Bear Run, which will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. throughout the SSU campus and the City of Portsmouth. That exhibition race, which is open to the public, is followed by the prestigeous 65th All-Ohio Championships, which take place on Saturday, Sept. 28 in Cedarville, Ohio, the Greater Louisville Classic, which occurs the following Saturday on Oct. 5 in Louisville, Ky., and the Shawnee State University Cross Country Invitational on Friday, Oct. 11, which will mark the first time since 2014 that Shawnee State has held a home meet. The latter meet will take place on Homecoming Weekend.
After a 15-day break, the men and women both gear up for the homestretch as the Great Lakes Challenge, which will be the final meet of the regular season, occurs on Saturday, Oct. 26 in Grand Rapids, Mich., with the Mid-South Conference Championships following that on Saturday, Nov. 9 in Bowling Green. The season will be capped off at the 64th edition of the NAIA National Championships, which will take place at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash. on Saturday, Nov. 23.