Cross country ready for final home meet

By Gus Bode

For the final time in 2008, the SIU men’s and women’s cross country teams will be at home and look to use its home-field advantage in the Salukis Invitational to stay undefeated on the young season.

The men’s team enters the meet as the favorite and is led by junior Jeff Schirmer, who took first at their last meet at Eastern Illinois. Sophomore Dan Dunbar, after finishing second at Eastern, is also expected to finish near the top of the pack alongside Schirmer.

Coach Matt Sparks said while the men should have an easy time winning the race, the women would be looking for a key victory.


“On the men’s side there’s not going to be a lot of competition,” Sparks said. “The women haven’t won this meet for a year or two, so we would like to get back on the winning track.”

But, the men’s team does enter the race with a few question marks.

Sparks said he was unhappy with the way sophomore Kyle Kirchner and junior Jason Ordway ran at the Eastern meet.

“Kyle Kirchner and Jason Ordway are two guys who should be pretty close to Dan and Jeff,” he said. “They struggled a little bit at Eastern and need to get back on the right track.”

Dunbar said he must be more competitive with Schirmer in order to qualify for National’s, which was his primary goal entering the season.

“In order to (qualify for National’s), I’m going to have to be competitive with Jeff,” Dunbar said. “Whether I finish with a really good time or a really bad time, as long as I run a competitive race and try to win I’m happy.”

On the women’s side, an old college rivalry will be renewed between coaches.


Sparks and Murray State assistant coach Chris England developed a rivalry while running at Indiana University and Ohio State, respectively.

This weekend, the two will take it to the coaching level.

“I think he was a year older than me, so he had a little bit of an experience edge,” England said. “I do think I came out on top in most of our matches though. But, now that we’re coaching, he definitely holds the edge in the wins department.”

Sparks said England’s squad should represent the toughest competition on the women’s side.

Junior A’Seret Dokubo said she has high expectations for herself after finishing in third place at the Eastern meet.

“I’m going to try to win the meet,” Dokubo said. “I think I got third last year, so definitely top three again this year.”

The women have not won the meet since 2006, but despite the competition from Murray State, Dokubo said she expects the team to come out on top.

Sparks said traditionally, a team running on its home course has a huge advantage because they’re familiar with the course.

That’s not quite the case for the home team this meet.

The recent construction of Saluki Way has altered the course layout. The intramural fields were moved to where part of the cross country course was.

The course will be at the same spot but it will have to be altered around construction.

Sparks said the team now only has about one third of the course they normally run on available and will go out to the course today to see where the construction was and map out a course the team has never ran on before.

The Salukis will compete against Murray State, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, McKendree, Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois. The meet will take place Saturday at 10 a.m.

Stile Smith can be reached at

536-3311 ext. 282 or at [email protected]