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Men's Cross Country/Track and Field

November 13, 2007

Eagles looking for big finish

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—The No. 14 University of Southern Indiana men's cross country team is looking for a strong finish when it competes at the NCAA II Championships in Joplin, Missouri, Saturday. The men's 10k race starts at 11:30 a.m., while the women's 6k race begins at 10:30 a.m.

This marks the third straight appearance in the NCAA II Championships for the Screaming Eagles, who finished 16th in 2005 and 13th a year ago. It marks the third time in the program's history that USI has qualified for three consecutive national championship appearances.

USI is coming off a disappointing third-place finish at the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championships on November 3, but has reason to believe a stronger performance can boost into a top-five performance at nationals.

"When you fail to race to the level of your fitness, you have to look for answers and take responsibility," Head Coach Mike Hillyard said. "We know that our performance at the Great Lakes regional meet fell far short of our expectations.

"To race at your highest level, the secret lies in being attentive to the details, maintaining your composure, and then simply following through on what you have trained your body to do," Hillyard continued. "We will be ready to race well in Joplin."

Leading the Eagles is senior Paul Jellema (Dyer, Indiana) and junior Tim Sirbek (Hammond, Indiana). Jellema won the GLVC championship and was second at the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championships. "Paul is one of the premier runners in the country among the NCAA II national ranks," Hillyard said. "He has looked as good as ever in training during the last 10 days and has a legitimate shot to finish in the top five."

Sirbek is coming off an uncharacteristic performance at the regional, but has the ability to earn All-America honors and propel the Eagles into the upper-echelon of the 24-team field. "Tim performed well at the outdoor national championships last spring," Hillyard explained. "That positive experience will be helpful on the course Saturday in Joplin. Tim could surprise us. He is capable of a top 15 finish."

Look for seniors Rey Alvarez (Danville, Illinois) and Tristan Mannix (Crothersville, Indiana) to have strong performances at nationals. Alvarez was 17th at the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championships, missing All-Region honors by less than four seconds, while Mannix was 24th at the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championships and seventh at the GLVC Championships.

USI will round out its top seven with sophomore Brandon Campbell (Portage, Indiana), freshman Andrew Dixon (Petersburg, Indiana), and senior Joe King (Alsip, Illinois).

*Note: In order to earn All-America status, a runner must be in the top 30 or one of the top 30 U.S. born runners…the Eagles depart for Joplin Wednesday morning and will take seven men and seven women, with an alternate for each team.

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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