2021 SSU XC schedule released

PORTSMOUTH — Following a season of abnormalcy for most everyone associated with athletics, the Shawnee State University cross country programs will return to their regular participation in seven meets prior to NAIA National Championship competition, including the 2021 Mid-South Conference Championships — which are traditionally held in Bowling Green, Ky.

The season gets started with a new meet on the calendar for Shawnee State — as the men’s and women’s units travel to Charleston, W. Va. to participate in the Golden Eagle Invitational on Friday, Sept. 3.

The Bears get a two-week break before returning to action in two big meets — the All-Ohio Championships in Cedarville and the MSC Preview in Bowling Green, Ky. — on Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18.

Two weeks later, the Bears head to Louisville, Ky. for the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday, Oct. 2 — before competing in the Jenna Strong Invitational on Friday, Oct. 15.

The Great Lakes Challenge, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 23 in Grand Rapids, Mich., concludes the regular-season schedule.

Following those dates, the MSC Championship takes place on Friday, Nov. 5 in Bowling Green, while the 66th annual NAIA National Championships — for both individual and team qualifiers — take place on Friday, Nov. 19.

The men’s cross country team, which has won MSC Championships in 10 out of its last 11 seasons, is loaded for bear again — having only lost one runner out of its top eight.

With that fact in mind, the 2021 version of the Bears could very well be one of the most talented teams in program history — and with three all-time finishes seventh or higher at nationals, that’s really saying something.

The competition among the top-10 runners inside the men’s program is as good as it’s ever been — with defending MSC Runner of the Year Hunter Hoover, fellow NAIA All-American Jonah Phillips, and first-team all-MSC honorees Aiden Kammler and Hunter Bennington all back.

Along with those four individuals, second-team all-MSC runners Thyrecton Deckard, Aidan Judd and Jacob Nichols also return.

Additional team members include Alex Morris, Mason Blizzard, Logan Boggs, Philip Evory, Eric Hacker, Ethan LaFon, Brice Leveck and Zach Sharrock — with a talented incoming quartet of freshmen (Landen Smith, Malachi Shugert, Kooper Keen and Matthew Rauch) rounding out the roster.

From the women’s standpoint, the Bears return a great deal from a unit that has qualified for the NAIA National Championships in each season — as a team — for the last 11 seasons and 12 of the last 13.

Shawnee State returns first-team all-MSC runner Jozi Brown; second-team all-MSC runner Deanna Hall; and Mckenna Pannell, who finished as a meet runner-up in two separate events during the 2020 portion of the schedule.

Marissa Smith, a first-team all-MSC runner in 2018, is also back after dealing with injuries that cut her 2020 season short.

Along with that quartet — Mikella Meddock, Graci Davis and Gina Van Lieu all return to the women’s roster for the upcoming year.

Sydnie Jenkins, who ran for the track and field program when she wasn’t playing soccer, will now make the switch to full-time running beginning this fall — while Haley Wright, Emma Marshall and Abbi McKinney round out the women’s newcomers.

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