Behind a strong start to the 2019 season that has already featured the men’s cross country unit collecting a season-opening win at the Mid-South Conference Previews and obtaining both Mid-South Conference Runner of the Week accolades, Eric Putnam’s group held their preseason No. 11 ranking to the first week of the NAIA Cross Country Coaches Poll as the men obtained 396 points to maintain their firm top-15 standing.
Shawnee State, who was one of two teams in the Mid-South Conference to receive votes or garner a higher standing in the poll — Campbellsville being the other with 12 votes received — edged 12th place Taylor (Ind.) by seven points (389) and 13th place The Master’s (Calif.) by 11 points (385) for the No. 11 ranking.
At the top of the poll, Oklahoma City maintained a firm grip on the top spot as OCU obtained all 21 first-place votes and 591 points overall in the first week of the poll — which was identical to their preseason output. Southern Oregon, who was fourth in the preseason, moved to No. 2 overall and obtained 561 points, while Saint Mary (Kan.) also moved up two positions from the preseason by advancing from fifth to third in the rankings.
St. Francis (Ill.) and the College of Idaho, who amassed 540 and 513 points, obtained fourth and fifth-place showings in the standings, while Embry-Riddle (Ariz.), who collected 493 points, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), who posted 451 tallies, and Dordt (Iowa), who put up 440 marks, were sixth through eighth in the poll.
Huntington (Ind.) represented the biggest mover in the poll by jumping to ninth from all the way out of poll and garnering 439 points as a result. Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) rounded out the top-10 with 424 points to its name. Indiana Wesleyan, who started the season as the No. 2 unit in the poll, fell to No. 14 overall and saw its point total cut to 354 after posting 571 marks in the preseason.
With its start to the 2019 season, Shawnee State’s ascension up the rankings could come about in the short term. The Bears put nine runners inside the top-20 overall, including five in the top-seven, en route to a dominating performance at the Mid-South Conference Previews where Shawnee State got top-five runs from Hunter Hoover (16:05), Seth Farmer (16:06) and Jonah Phillips (16:12.06). Steven Adams (16:12.08) and Hunter Bennington (16:12.52) also finished sixth and seventh respectively in the Bowling Green-based 5K meet as the Bears came within eight points of a perfect score.
At the Spartan Invitational, SSU, who finished eighth of 23 teams, put seven runners inside the top-100 overall despite coming against NCAA Division I and Division II runners during the 8K event. Farmer (25:24, 12th) and Hoover (25:44, 26th), led the way again, while Bennington (26:26, 59th), Adams (74th, 26:38), Aiden Kammler (83th, 26:49), Josh Metzung (90th, 26:57), and Jacob Kemper (96th, 27:00) also collected top-100 finishes overall.
Hoover, who was the MSC Runner of the Week for Sept. 9, and Farmer, who was the MSC Runner of the Week for this past week (Sept. 16), still hold the fastest 5K and 8K times of anybody in the Mid-South Conference to this point in the year.