Running toward regionals

By Gus Bode

The SIU men’s cross country team has on its roster the Missouri Valley Conference championship, the MVC Coach of the Year and the MVC Cross Country Athlete of the Year – but none of that will matter Saturday.

The Salukis are set to head to Peoria for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship on Saturday. SIU will be competing against the top teams in the region in its bid to qualify for the national championship meet.

SIU coach Matt Sparks said though the team has already accomplished plenty, they are not ready to settle.


“The guys still seem really strong and have plenty of gas left in the tank,” Sparks said. “The key is to peak at the end of the season and they all seem to be doing that.”

The Salukis boast the top three men runners in the MVC in conference champion sophomore Jeff Schirmer, junior Mohamed Mohamed and senior Kevin Doran.

If the triple threat can all finish in the top-25 in the regional, they will earn All-Regional honors and have a chance to qualify for Nationals as individuals and as a team.

The men’s squad will focus on trying to overtake one of the top regional teams during the meet including Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa State and Tulsa. Sparks said if the team races to its potential, it has a good chance to beat one of those top teams.

Only the top two teams will get an automatic bid to national competition, but with 13 at-large bids, the Salukis have a chance to make it with a finish over a quality team.

Doran said he is determined to make sure this isn’t his last cross country race.

“I don’t try to think about this being my last race, but it is just going to push me harder to do better,” Doran said. “It’s now or never for me, so those last couple miles I will be thinking about finishing strong.”


The Saluki women will also be competing at the regional event, and while they are not a favorite, they still have one major goal.

After a disappointing seventh place finish at the MVC championship meet, the women want to show their true potential. While Sparks said he doesn’t expect to continue the streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes, a top-15 finish would be a great accomplishment.

All-MVC sophomore A’Seret Dokubo leads the women’s squad. Dokubo finished ninth in the MVC championship meet and was the only sophomore to finish in the top-10. The co-leader, sophomore Nefeteri Williams, had a poor showing at the MVC meet, but Dokubo said Williams is back to true form.

Dokubo said her goal is to make All-Region.

“Me and (Williams) are looking to finish in the top-30, which would make us All-Region,” Dokubo said. “We have been working out hard to get ready, but it’s nothing we haven’t already done this season. I think we are ready for the meet.”

The women will be running a 6K, which is a kilometer longer than their usual meets. This will be the final test for the young Saluki team, which includes seven freshmen.

Dokubo said she thinks this will be the last great learning experience this season for a team she feels will greatly improve next year. Dokubo said she understands the value of experience from her previous season when she finished 43rd at the MVC meet, compared to her ninth place finish this season.

Sparks said he is confident this team will improve just like Dokubo did and be a force in the years to come.

“I feel I could bring the same team to the same conference meet next year and make the top three,” Sparks said. “The talent is there and now they know what it takes to compete at the college level.”

Daily Egyptian reporter Jeff Engelhardt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 238 or [email protected]