NEW ORLEANS – The Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team is ranked No. 3 while the EKU women’s team is ranked No. 8 in the preseason NCAA Southeast Region poll released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday.
Both EKU teams are favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference this fall.
The EKU men won the Southeast Region last year for the first time in program history; however, the Colonels lost three of their top-five runners in Soufiane Bouchikhi, Wade Meddles and Thijs Nijhuis. Still, All-American steeplechaser Ole Hesselbjerg is back, along with sophomore Ambrose Maritim, seniors Ben Toroitich and Sean Vandermosten and junior Amos Kosgey. Talented newcomers such as Tom Koringo and Luka Ndungu will add depth to a team that finished 15that the NCAA Championships last November.
The men’s team is ranked ahead of the likes of North Carolina (No. 4), Virginia Tech (No. 6), Louisville (No. 7), Duke (No. 8) and Kentucky (No.11). N.C. State (No. 1) and Virginia (No. 2) are the only teams ranked ahead of the Colonels.
The EKU women, on the other hand, finished 12th in the Southeast Region last year but return four of their top-five in senior All-American Ann Eason, senior Una Britton, junior Ashley Svec and senior Anna Reddin. Junior Julie Mathisen, the OVC indoor mile champion in the spring, should round out the Colonels’ veteran lineup.
The women’s team is ranked ahead of such teams as Wake Forest (No 10), Richmond (No. 12), Kentucky (No. 13), Louisville (No. 14) and South Carolina (No. 15).
The Colonels open the 2014 campaign at the Queen City Invitational in Mason, Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 5.