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Men's Cross Country/Track and Field

November 17, 2007

Eagles finish eighth at nationals,
Sirbek, Jellema earn All-America honors

Complete Results

JOPLIN, Mo.Junior Tim Sirbek (Hammond, Indiana) and senior Paul Jellema (Dyer, Indiana) finished 17th and 21st, respectively, to lead the University of Southern Indiana men's cross country team to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA II Championships Saturday morning.

The Screaming Eagles finished with a team score of 240 points, just 12 points behind the Colorado School of Mines, which was seventh with 228 points. The eighth-place showing is the highest finish for the Eagles, who came into the day ranked 14th in the country, since they placed eighth at the 1997 NCAA II Championships.

It also is USI's fifth top-10 finish at the NCAA II Championships in the 29-year history of the men's cross country program. USI finished third in 1982, fifth in 1983, and ninth in 1990.

"Obviously it means a lot for our guys to finish in the top 10," Head Coach Mike Hillyard said. "It puts it into historical perspective when you think that out of the 15 times this program has competed at the national championships, this is tied for our third-best finish.

"It is a testament to the hard work and dedication that this group has put forward and to the leadership that has been displayed by our upperclassmen," Hillyard added.

Both Sirbek and Jellema earned All-America honors with their finishes, marking just the second time in the program's history that two USI competitors have earned All-America honors in the same season. The first time was in 1983 when Mike Atkinson and Jim Nolan earned All-America honors.

Tim Sirbek

Sirbek, who is an All-American for the first time in cross country and the second time in his cross country/track career, finished the 10k course in 30 minutes, 57.0 seconds.

"Tim emerged as one of the premiere cross country runners in Division II today," Hillyard said. "We've known for some time that he had the skill to be an All-American and today he went out and showed it.

"Much of the credit is due to the leadership of his roommate, Paul Jellema," Hillyard continued. "In a way, it was sort of a passing of the torch in the last kilometer of the race. Tim ran a very patient race and moved up from 30th to 17th in the last two miles, catching and passing Paul in the last kilometer."

Paul Jellema

Jellema, who was displaced as USI's top finisher for the first time since the opening race of the 2006 season, finished the race in 31 minutes, 10.4 seconds. It marks the second time in cross country and the fifth time in his cross country/track career that Jellema has earned All-America honors. He joins USTFCCCA Hall of Fame member Elly Rono as the only USI men's cross country runners to earn back-to-back All-America honors.

"Paul has raised the bar for the program," Hillyard said. "Having him around and his vision of what the standards of this team should be has elevated everyone around him.

"In terms of history, Paul has cemented himself in the record books," Hillyard continued. "He is an all-time great at USI and is destined to be in the USI Hall of Fame some day."

USI was aided on the day by the performances of seniors Rey Alvarez (Danville, Illinois) and Trist

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