Courtesy: Paul Hokanson/UB Athletics
Jason Drudge, Ethan Lievense and the men's cross country team will look to earn a NCAA Championship big at Friday's NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
Cross Country Looks for NCAA Bid at Great Lakes Regional

MOUNT PLEASANT - The Central Michigan men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet in Madison, Wis., Friday for the opportunity to compete at the NCAA National Championship.

The women’s six-kilometer race is set to begin at 1 p.m. EST, followed by the men’s 10-kilometer race at 2:15 p.m. at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course.

Coming off a runner-up finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships two weekends ago, the men’s team is ranked 10th in the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region poll and will look to replicate or improve upon their 2011 seventh-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Meet.

The Chippewas also finished runner-up in the MAC in 2011, but finished as the top team in the region, taking down 2011 MAC Champion Eastern Michigan.

Sophomore Kyle Stacks, who was the top freshman at the 2011 Great Lakes Regional with a 32nd-place finish, has developed into the Chippewas’ number one runner throughout the season, most recently finishing fifth and earning first-team All-MAC honors at the MAC Championships.

Stacks and the Chippewas need to finish in the top two in the region to secure a team berth, though a finish between in third or fourth could potentially earn the team an at-large bid. Individual runners can qualify by finishing among the top seven runners who are not members of a qualifying team.

Qualification for Nationals will be a tall task, as the region is loaded with strong teams. Defending national champion and host No. 6 Wisconsin headlines the competition, which also includes No. 12 Michigan and No. 20 Indiana. Reigning MAC Champion Eastern Michigan will also be in the field.

Pushing Stacks in the front of the Chippewas’ scoring lineup will be senior Jason Drudge and sophomore Ethan Lievense. Drudge has been the second runner for the Chippewas most of the season, and earned second-team All-MAC honors with a 13th place finish two weekends ago. Lievense is making a late-season surge after also earning second-team honors with a 12th place finish.

Central Michigan’s fourth and fifth runners will be crucial in keeping the team score as low as possible to contend for National Championship consideration. Senior Matt Lutzke, junior Nathan Huff, sophomore Ben Wynsma and redshirt freshman Nate Ghena will all battle for scoring lineup spots for the Chippewas.

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