Cross-country dominates preseason invitational

By Gus Bode

The Saluki men’s cross-country team dominated its preseason invitational without its top two runners.

Junior Dan Dunbar took first place in the 6-kilometer run at the Early Bird Invitational in Carbondale Friday, as four of the top five Salukis – including seniors Jeff Schirmer and Mohamed Mohamed – rested on the sidelines in the final warm-up before the season.

‘Dan Dunbar dominated the way that we had hoped,’ cross-country coach Matt Sparks said.


Dunbar finished 11 seconds ahead of the second-place runner, Southeast Missouri State’s Jason Lumpkin, with a time of 19 minutes, 3.5 seconds.

Sophomore Brad Wrage, the second Saluki to cross the finish line, finished fourth with a time of 19:23.3.

Sparks said Wrage performed well, but thinks he is capable of keeping pace with the top runners on the team.

‘I think he is capable of running a lot closer to Dan,’ Sparks said. ‘When Dan makes his move, Brad needs to react better and run with (him).’

Sparks said even though the Early Bird Invitational is a preseason meet, it is important for the freshmen and sophomore runners.

‘It is most important to the younger runners because they’re still trying to figure out what collegiate long distance running is all about and it is a chance for them to get their feet wet,’ Sparks said.

There were several unattached runners representing the Salukis on Friday and a few of them finished in the top-10. Lucas Cherry, Thomas Fielder, and Zach Dahleen, finished in the top-10, but Sparks said they would probably redshirt for the remainder of the season.


Juniors Emily Toennies and Megan Hoelscher were the top runners for the women’s team as they finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Toennies said it felt good to get the year’s first meet under her belt.

‘I was nervous,’ Toennies said. ‘I think it takes this first race to get the jitters out and to be relaxed and get the feel for it again.’

University of Missouri and Southeast Missouri State also competed in the Early Bird Invitational.

In the men’s 6-kilometer run, Missouri finished fifth and Southeast Missouri State came in at second. In the women’s 4-kilometer run, Missouri finished first and Southeast Missouri State took 10th.

Dunbar said the team took a more conservative approach to the meet, but would be more aggressive as the season progresses.

‘I felt like I was a little too conservative,’ Dunbar said. ‘I never really pushed it as hard as I could because I didn’t trust my own limits and next week I will definitely be able to pick it up and run faster towards the end.’