NEW ORLEANS – The Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team will enter the 2014 season ranked No. 21 in the country, according to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason national poll released on Tuesday.
EKU is the only men’s team from the Ohio Valley Conference or the state of Kentucky featured in the national rankings.
The ranking is a tribute to Eastern’s rising prestige on the national stage. The Colonels lost three of their top-five runners – Soufiane Bouchikhi, Wade Meddles and Thijs Nijhuis – from a team that finished 15th at the NCAA Championships last November, yet they are still ranked among the likes of North Carolina (No. 20), Michigan (No. 22), Texas (No. 23), UCLA (No. 24) and Florida State (No. 25).
Despite the loss of All-American-caliber athletes such as Bouchikhi and Meddles, the Colonels return a bevvy of talent, starting with Danish senior Ole Hesselbjerg. Hesselbjerg was in peak form in the spring, finishing third in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:38.75) at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
He will be joined by sophomore Ambrose Maritim – the 2013 OVC Male Cross Country Freshman of the Year – and veterans such as seniors Ben Toroitich and Sean Vandermosten and junior Amos Kosgey.
Two-time NCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year Rick Erdmann has also reloaded with the addition of talented newcomers such as Tom Koringo, Luka Ndungu, Jakob Abrahamsen, Dominic Brown and Jamaine Coleman.
The Colonels open the 2014 campaign at the Queen City Invitational in Mason, Ohio on Saturday, September 5.