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2005 Men's Cross Country Outlook

The University of Southern Indiana men’s cross country team enters the 2005 season with its sights set on a GLVC Championship. The Screaming Eagles, who finished second in the GLVC last season, return four of their top seven runners from last season’s squad.

Led by eighth-year Head Coach Mike Hillyard, the Eagles should be in contention for a GLVC title in 2005 as well as a berth in the NCAA II Championship meet.

Leading the list of returnees is a list of four seniors, including last season’s number one finisher at the league meet, Jesse Davis. Davis finished second at the conference championships last season and is the top returning performer in the conference this season.

Fellow classmates Jake England, Rob Garwood, and David Tyler have had great workouts during the summer and figure to be strong candidates to run in USI’s top five.

England had a strong season on the track last year and could be one of the Eagles’ most improved runners heading into the 2005 season, while Garwood ran top three for the Eagles in six races last fall before seeing limited action in the indoor track season and red-shirting during the outdoor season.

Like England and Garwood, Tyler’s summer workouts have Hillyard and the Eagles expecting big things in 2005. He was a big reason why the Eagles were able to capture the conference title in 2003, but struggled at the league meet a season ago. Tyler could be an All-GLVC caliber performer this season and if so, the Eagles should be a favorite to recapture the crown.

“Our seniors have really stepped forward as leaders,” Hillyard said. “I can’t say enough about the example that they are setting.”

Another returnee that could make an impact in 2005 is junior Bryan Emerson. Emerson is finally injury free and may be one of the most improved runners on the roster after finishing 72nd at the 2004 GLVC Championships.

Sophomore Justin Thomas established himself as one of the top runners in the GLVC when he scored in both the 10k and the 5k at the GLVC Outdoor Track and Field Championships last spring. Thomas finished 42nd at the GLVC Championships during his rookie season in 2004.

A pair of red-shirt freshmen that Hillyard is excited about is Doug Higgins and Rob Roads. Higgins was a scorer in the 5k at the GLVC Indoor Track and Field Championships last winter and should be a low 26-minute performer in the 8k in 2005. Roads finished fourth in the steeplechase at the conference outdoor meet last spring.

Hillyard had a hole to fill with the graduation of Doug Schwartz and he may have flooded the hole with the addition of junior transfer Rey Alvarez. Alvarez, who will challenge Davis as USI’s top runner in 2005, has looked strong in preseason workouts and brings a list of credentials from Rend Lake Community College that would impress anyone.

In just two years at RLCC, Alvarez earned 10 All-American awards and was the top finisher for RLCC’s 2003 NJCAA National Championship squad.

Sophomore Paul Jellema and freshmen Tim Sirbek may not make an immediate impact, but should be two of the top runners in the GLVC when the league championship rolls around in October.

Jellema, who has not competed in two years due to injury, is just the 11th athlete in Illinois history to win two IHSA Cross Country Championships. He ran the second fastest time in the history of the IHSA Cross Country Championships as a senior in 2002 and also won a state championship in the 3,200 meters on the track.

Jellema comes to the Eagles from South Suburban College after spending his freshman season at the University of Illinois. He graduated from Illiana Christian High School in 2003.

Sirbek enters his rookie season after winning a state championship in the 3,200 meters for Oliver Morton High School (Hammond, Indiana). The three-time All-Conference and two-time All-State cross country performer was seventh last fall at the IHSAA Championships after finishing 10th at the IHSAA Championships in 2003.

“We are excited to see what our front pack will look like in October,” Hillyard said. “I believe we have four potential number one runners on this squad. “Jesse has proven himself on the conference level and Rey, Paul, and Tim are all capable of joining him at the front.”

Another freshman Hillyard believes could be one of the top newcomers in the GLVC is Joe Rayman. A four-time All-Conference performer in cross country at West Lafayette High School, Rayman earned All-State honors as a senior in 2004.

Junior transfer Tristan Mannix has looked impressive in preseason training and will add depth, while freshman Andy Jellema, the younger brother to Paul Jellema, is a potential top-seven candidate that may red-shirt in 2005.

USI’s season starts September 3 at the University of Evansville Early Bird Invitational and continues September 16 at the Indiana Intercollegiate in Bloomington, Indiana. The Eagles will run two other meets prior to the GLVC Championships, which take place October 22 in Rensselaer, Indiana.

The NCAA II Great Lakes Regional meet will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 5, while the NCAA II National Championships are November 19 in Pomona, California.

“We are not really concerned with what happens prior to October,” Hillyard explained. “The early meets are really just fitness markers to assess our progression. Our focus is on three meets, the GLVC Championships, Regional Championships, and National Championships.”

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