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Saints earn top spot in UMAC men's cross country preseason poll

UMAC Information

ST. PAUL – The College of St. Scholastica is once again the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) men's cross country preseason favorite. The Saints, who have won five straight UMAC Championships, received five first place votes for a total of 47 points and will look to extend their streak to six in 2014. The remaining top nods were distributed to Bethany Lutheran College, the University of Minnesota Morris and the University of Northwestern, who each tallied one first place vote in the annual coaches' preseason poll.

2014 UMAC Men's Cross Country Coaches' Poll

1. 47 Points – College of St. Scholastica (5 First Place Votes)

2. 37 Points – Bethany Lutheran College (1)

3. 35 Points – University of Minnesota Morris (1)

4. 33 Points – Martin Luther College

5. 26 Points – University of Northwestern (1)

6. 22 Points – North Central University

7. 14 Points – Northland College

8. 10 Points – Crown College

1. College of St. Scholastica Saints

2013 UMAC Finish: 1st

Runners Returning: 13

Runners Lost: 9

The St. Scholastica men's cross country team has won five straight UMAC Championships and are coming off a program-best 13th place finish at the NCAA Central Region championships.

The Saints return two All-UMAC performers from a season ago, including individual champion Chris Lawson. Lawson, who will be a junior, just missed all-region accolades by one position in 2013. Luke McKenzie is the other All-UMAC performer returning.

The Saints will have to fill the void of Charlie Habermann who graduated. Look for junior Tim Dunstan, sophomore Jacob Gallagher and freshman Evan White to contend early.

2. Bethany Lutheran College Vikings

2013 UMAC Finish:4th

Runners Returning: 6

Runners Lost: 1

Under head coach David Ring's tenure, the Bethany men's cross country team has seen steady improvement. They turned in a fourth place showing at last season's UMAC Cross Country Championship and with the return of a strong core and the addition of some strong newcomers, more strides in the positive direction are on the horizon.

One member of the strong returning core is sophomore Owen Richardson. The California product turned UMAC All-Conference performances in both cross country and outdoor track and field last season. He came in sixth in the conference cross country meet and worked hard during the summer to improve on that standing. Also back are Lucas Malimanek and Ethan Schwartz, another pair of sophomores who narrowly missed out on all-conference honors.

The Vikings return six of last season's top seven runners. The addition of a pair of newcomers in Zach Dantzman and David Luehring, who both averaged just over 17 minutes for 5000 meters, should make Bethany a team to watch out for in 2014.

3. University of Minnesota Morris Cougars

2013 UMAC Finish: T-2nd

Runners Returning: 2

Runners Lost: 4

Minnesota Morris will have to replace a few runners off last season's team that finished tied for second at the UMAC Championships. Chalmer Combellick, who finished second at the 2013 Championship meet, will sit out this fall but the Cougars do return Declan McCrory and Marcus Langevin.

A few newcomers will fill out the Minnesota Morris roster. The Cougars will look to build all season, in hopes of making a splash at the conference and regional meets in 2014

4. Martin Luther College Knights

2013 UMAC Finish: T-2nd

Runners Returning: 5

Runners Lost: 2

The 2014 Martin Luther College cross country team hopes to build off a surprise second-place finish at last season's UMAC Championships, with their sights set on competing for a conference championship this season.

The Knights lost several key veterans from last year's team, but return 2013 All-UMAC performers Grey Davis and Darian Schnose to lead this year's group. James Schuette, Luke Rosenbaum, Nathaniel Plocher and John Wiladauer return to bring depth to the team, while newcomer Justin Wilkens hopes to crack the line-up in his first season.

5. University of Northwestern Eagles

2013 UMAC Finish: INC

Runners Returning: 1

Runners Lost: 3

The Northwestern men enter the 2014 season fresh, meaning nearly brand new. Last year's three-man team has evolved into a 10-person squad, but experience is slim. Isaac Shay is the lone returner from 2013. Shay's top time last year came at the UMAC Championship, where his 8k performance was 34:51. Northwestern will miss its top runner from a year ago, Nick Krinkie, who posted several top 10 performances.

Wil Maki and Steve Baridon are two newcomers who should make an immediate impact for the Eagles. Both primarily track and field runners from their high school days, Maki and Baridon each medaled in their respective state's 4x800 meter relay event. Also joining the team is Isaac Siekawitch, another trackster who ran the sprint and mid-distance events for Northwestern while also playing football in his first two years of college.

6. North Central University Rams

2013 UMAC Finish:5th

Runners Returning: 2

Runners Lost: 3

North Central will only feature two returners from last year's fifth place UMAC squad but should have a few new parts that allow them to compete in well in the league in 2014. All-UMAC senior Sutton Rehwaldt will return and will be supported by fellow senior Jake Guttormson who looks to improve on his top 40 finish from a year ago. Coach Trey Meadows will return for his ninth season at the helm of NCU cross country with fifth year assistant coach Tony Lehr in support.

New additions for the fall include sophomore John Van Ben Schoten, who after a year off from competitive running, will be back to action following a competitive career for high school power house program Wayzata (Minn.). Freshman Tyler Gonzalez will come in after running within the top seven for a competitive Willmar (Minn.) program his senior year while freshman newcomer Aaron Cooke brings top seven experience from the Hermantown (Minn.) program.

7. Northland College LumberJacks

2013 UMAC Finish: 6th

Runners Returning: 3

Runners Lost: 3

Northland men's cross Country is gearing up for another exciting season. Jen Taft begins her second year as the program's head coach. She's looking for the continuing the development of her veteran group. Taft believes that this year will be another step in the right direction for the program. This year is filled with promise regarding both returners and newcomers.

Key returners to the Lumber Jacks men's cross country team are juniors Aaron Corcoran and senior Nile Merton. The Jacks are looking forward to incoming freshmen Ben DeVore from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

8. Crown College Storm

2013 UMAC Finish: 7th

Runners Returning: 1

Runners Lost: 4

Jordan Whitcomb will be the only returner for new head coach Nate Metzger in 2014. After finishing as the number four runner for most of the year last year, Whitcomb will be asked to lead a very young group of runners that includes only five other freshman.

That new group of runners includes many unknowns. Cody Edwards, Michael Elmhorst, and Billy Honeck all have cross country experience, but the team will almost certainly rely on some inexperienced runners to round out the roster in 2014.

All eight teams will run in multiple races throughout the fall before meeting in Hermantown, Minn. for the 2014 UMAC Championship race on Saturday, November 1.

Brooke Kern

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