Leading the pack

Cross country high in preseason polls; so what? ask athletes

Tyler Smith | Sports Writer

As the Pitt State cross country squads gear up for their Sept. 10 Alumni Run at Countryside Golf Course, they bring with them some lofty expectations. Leading into the 2011 season, the Gorilla men’s team heads into competition sporting a second-place billing in the MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll.
The men’s team was picked in a tie for second-place alongside rival Missouri Southern. The Gorillas and Lions both earned a total of 38 points to earn the honor.
With a high ranking going into the season, many wonder if there is added pressure to the team as they prepared during their preseason activities. But senior leader Matt Haffner says he doesn’t pay much attention to the polls.
“Conference rankings don’t mean a whole lot to us,” Haffner said matter-of-factly. “We don’t pay much attention to them.”
Haffner says there are too many variables that can affect a season.
“Too many unexpected things happen throughout the season for us to dwell on rankings, especially preseason rankings,” he said. “Our team is in a good place right now, though.”
The women’s team is also coming in hot for this season as it brings a No. 1 preseason ranking. Sophomore Erica Testa also says preseason rankings are of little importance and says more work needs to be done with the new squad.
“We are pretty excited about being ranked No. 1,” Testa said.

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“However, this doesn’t really mean anything as we have a lot of freshmen on our team this year and have a lot of work to do to get into No. 1 shape.”
On how she thinks they fare against fellow No. 1 spot holder Missouri Southern, Testa says she doesn’t quite know what to expect and they’re taking things one stride at a time.
“We got beat by them at the beginning of the season last year, but came out on top in the end,” she said.
Still, Testa remains optimistic and says they have the potential to have the same success they garnered last year.
“It is just going to take a lot of hard work and heart.”
When asked about Central Missouri gaining the No. 1 spot on the men’s side, Haffner says that the team is a force to be reckoned with.
“Central Missouri is deserving of the No. 1 spot,” Haffner said. “I think they’re losing only one guy out of their top seven and they all raced well at conference last year.”
With the loss of some seniority for both teams, the men’s and women’s squads say that they have good returning talent to take them far in the coming season.
“We are returning all of our top guys, and they lost a few of theirs (On Missouri Southern),” Haffner said. “I heard they had a good freshman class this year, but so do we.
“This is probably the best freshman class I’ve seen since I’ve been at Pitt,” Haffner said. “Adam Volkert is returning, and this summer we acquired Nicholas Kiprono (from Kenya).”

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