FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU Men’s Cross Country team, which finished seventh at the A-Sun Championships last season, was picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Sun preseason poll the conference office announced on Thursday.
ETSU earned the top spot in the poll, edging out perennial favorite Belmont. The Buccaneers ended the Bruins’ six-year reign as league champion, winning by six points in the preseason poll, the Bucs squeaked by the Bruins by a mere two points to earn the top spot for the first time in their five seasons in the conference. ETSU landed atop the poll on the strength of its top returning runners. Kenneth Rotich won the individual title with Ben Ronoh taking second at the meet. J Penny, 12th at the A-Sun Championships and Manny Gonzalez round out the returnees.
Belmont will eye a seventh title in its nine years in the A-Sun needing to replace Kipkosgei Magut, a two-time individual champion. Hillary Cheruiyot, third at last year’s event and the 2007 Freshman of the Year, and Clay Hannah, fourth in 2008 and the 2006 Freshman of the Year, appear to be the top candidates. Will Peters and Kip Hill both earned spots on the Second-Team All-Atlantic Sun squad.
In each of its first four years in the Atlantic Sun, Kennesaw State has finished in the top four at the league meet and in this year’s poll, placed third and received the lone first-place vote not allotted to the top two schools. Scott Burley (eighth in 2008), and Jaakko Nieminen, an All-Freshman performer, highlight the returning Owls. In addition, Peikko Solla, ninth at the 2007 Championship, returns from a red-shirt year.
UNF moved up to fourth in 2008 following consecutive seventh-place showings and also placed fourth in the preseason poll. Following true to the 2008 Championship results, Campbell edged out Lipscomb to hold down the fifth position. The Camels must overhaul its roster due to graduation, with the exception of Terence Attema while the Bisons return Ryan Chastain, the program’s first All-Atlantic Sun performer. As a junior, he placed sixth at the A-Sun Championships.
USC Upstate grabbed the seventh position, one point ahead of FGCU with Mercer in ninth. The poll concludes with Stetson in 10th, followed by Jacksonville. The Eagles will host their first meet on October 24 in Fort Myers. The meet is set to begin at 8 a.m. The Hatters serve as host for the second time – the last time occurred on the same date in 1992. The Hatter Invitational on October 16 will serve as the championship preview meet.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
2009 Atlantic Sun Men’s Cross Country Preseason Poll
3. Kennesaw State
7. USC Upstate