JOPLIN, Mo. – The Mars Hill men's cross country team is back at the NCAA National Championship meet for the second straight season thanks to their runner-up finish at the Southeast Regional meet on November 7. The Lions will take to the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course on the campus of Missouri Southern State University at 12:15 EST on Saturday.
Last year, Mars Hill finished in 27th place at the national meet held in Louisville, Ky. According to head coach Mike Owens, the 2014 experience should pay off for this year's group.
"Running at nationals is and can be an overwhelming experience for your first time," Owens said. "For most of the guys on last year's team, it was their first trip to nationals and I feel like this year we are much more mature and focused."
Mars Hill is led by USTFCCCA Southeast Region Runner of the Year and South Atlantic Conference Runner of the Year Alex Griggs. Griggs won the Bulldog Stampede on September 26, SAC Championship on October 24 and the Southeast Regional meet. He also set a new school record in the 8k on October 9th with a time of 24:23.10. Tomorrow will not be Griggs' first race at the MSSU Cross Country Course as he finished in 138th place with a time 31:54.70 at the national meet in 2012 as an individual.
"This is my third trip to the National Championships, experiences I never would have had If I hadn't come to Mars Hill," Griggs said. "I feel like the first two races have helped me to understand and appreciate what we need to do Saturday to reach our season long goal. We have been training and preparing since May for this race."
The Lions are far from a one runner show. Nathan Jones was named to the USTFCCCA All-Region team thanks to his 11th place finish at the Southeast Regional meet. Nick Resor was a member of the SAC All-Freshman team and finished in 23rd place at the Southeast Regional meet. Cesar Reyes was a first team All-SAC runner and scored a 24th place result two weeks ago. Other MHU runners expected to compete at the national meet include Gil Gilreath, Brandon Beard and Noah Allison.
The top three teams of seven student-athletes from each region automatically qualified. Additional berths were awarded to regions based on the first eight team finishers at the 2014 championships. The top three individual finishers from each region who are not part of a qualifying team automatically qualified for the championships. In addition, all individual competitors who finish in the top five overall places in their respective regional meet and are not a member of a qualifying team automatically advance to the championships.
Live timing will be available by clicking the link below.