MOUNT PLEASANT - The men’s and women’s cross country teams begin their championship season Saturday with the Mid-American Conference Championship Meet in Amherst, New York, hosted by the University at Buffalo.
Held at the relatively flat Beaver Island State Park, the women’s six-kilometer race is set to begin at 11 a.m., while the men’s eight-kilometer competition will go at noon.
Both teams are looking to replicate and improve upon their 2011 runner-up finishes at the MAC Championships. The women’s team has finished runner-up at the past two MAC Championship meets.
The men’s team enters the weekend 11th in the most recent US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Great Lakes Region rankings, making them the second-highest ranked MAC team behind No. 4 Eastern Michigan.
Sophomore Kyle Stacks and senior Jason Drudge have led the way for the Chippewas this season, finishing one-two in each of their races since their season debut at Wisconsin in the second race of the season. Stacks finished 74th overall in a loaded Pre-Nationals race on October 13 in a career-best 24:16.5, while Drudge finished 136th in 24:44.8.
As a team, the men finished 29th of 40 in a Pre-Nationals race that featured eight ranked teams. Rival and pre-meet favorite Eastern Michigan finished 10th, while MAC foe Miami (OH) was 31st.
Junior Nathan Huff, sophomore Ethan Lievense and sophomore Nate Ghena each ran career-bests to round out the scoring lineup. Senior Matt Lutzke and sophomore Ben Wynsma will also be expected to contend for scoring lineup slots and help push the CMU pack up the field.
The women have moved back into the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region rankings at number 15, but are the fifth-ranked MAC team in the region. No. 4 Toledo, ranked 20th nationally, enters as the favorite, while Miami (OH) (ninth), Ohio (10th) and Eastern Michigan (13) are also ranked ahead of the Chippewas.
Junior Krista Parks has ben the top runner for the Chippewas since her debut at the Badger Opener in the second race of the season. Most recently at the unseeded Black Division race at Pre-Nationals Parks ran a season-best 21:40.8 to finish 11th overall.
The women’s team most recently finished sixth of 27 at Pre-Nationals in the unseeded Black Division race, ahead of MAC foes Akron and Kent State.
Seniors Maddie Ribant, junior Shelby Thren and freshman Bailey Parmelee have all battled for the number two spot all season, and senior Veronica Garcia, redshirt freshmen Alyssa Dyer and Jacquee Overbeek and freshman Kelly Schubert will all also compete for scoring spots.