SIU cross country hosts 32nd annual Saluki Invitational

By Gus Bode

SIU cross country will host the 32nd Saluki Invitational on Saturday, an event that has produced much success for the Salukis.

A runner for the SIU men’s squad has won the individual title each of the past four years, and last year the Saluki women took first place as a team.

For the past three years, the Saluki men and women have taken first or second place. In 2003 and 2004, the men won and the women placed second both years.

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“We’d like to build on the success we’ve had here at the meet the last four or five years,” head coach Matt Sparks said.

Joe Byrne carried the team on the men’s side the past three years. Byrne, now a volunteer assistant coach with the team, won the individual title in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The University of Southern Indiana won the Saluki Invitational last year, a title Sparks said he hopes the Salukis can regain.

Sparks said the goal for the men’s and women’s teams Saturday is to have all five scorers in the top 10.

Mohamed Mohamed is coming off his career-best time at the Lakefront Invitational. Mohamed, a sophomore, finished second overall in the Sept. 30 meet, but Sparks said one runner he needs to get back to the Salukis’ top five is freshman Tyler Bradford.

“In our first meet he was our number three or four guy,” Sparks said. “We need to get him back on track.”

After senior Sarah Rinker and junior Brittani Christensen bounced back for the women in last week’s meet, Sparks said he is looking for Nefeteri Williams to rebound at the Saluki Invitational.

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Sparks said Williams ran sick for the Salukis last Saturday. She finished 102nd overall and seventh among the team.

At the previous meet, Williams had finished 13th overall and second on the team.

With the pre-Nationals looming Oct. 14, Sparks said this meet is a “building block to the end of the year.”

“Basically, the whole vision and the whole objective for our season is to run well at the conference meet at the end of October and the NCAA regional meet in the middle of November,” Sparks said.

Sparks said the team has shown improvement from week to week so far this season. He said the women ran poorly at the first meet but ran well at the Lakefront meet.

The men, however, ran well at the first meet and built upon that success at the Lakefront Invitational, Sparks said.

“I kind of think of the season as a puzzle,” Sparks said. “Each week we’re trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together so all of the finishing touches are put on for the end of the year.”

The 32nd Saluki Invitational will begin behind Abe Martin Field on Saturday. The women’s start time is scheduled for 10 a.m., and the men are slated to begin at 10:45 a.m.

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