Saluki cross country hopes to kick up dust in the field

By Gus Bode

Men’s cross country benefiting from experience; women’s team seeing new faces

SIU cross country is hoping to climb the hills to the top of the Valley with experience and new recruits.

Last year the men’s team had four freshmen on the team, more than any other class. Even though they were young, the Salukis showed poise.

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We came in last year; we definitely improved over the year before, said sophomore Eli Baker.

The Salukis had to do without team captain Joe Zeibert for much of the year because of an injury.

This season, SIU will be under the leadership of junior Doron Giat and sophomore Eli Baker.

Last year’s captain had good things to say about Baker.

He’s very confident, and it shows, Zeibert said. Usually when freshmen come in, they’re really timid, but not him. He’s got a lot of talent.

Baker feels the team will be improved from last year.

In conference, we’ll definitely creep into the top three, without a doubt, Baker said.

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SIU head coach Matt McClelland was a standout at SIU and finished his collegiate running career in 2000. McClelland and the vigor he brings will be a large part of the Salukis’ success, according to Baker.

He’s real enthusiastic about what he’s doing, Baker said. Running’s still fresh on his mind.

The women’s team is coming off a year of transition. Because of injuries, SIU was represented by only five women, the NCAA minimum.

After hosting the Midwest Regional, the Salukis finished 19th out of 30 schools.

I know last year they were a little frustrated at times, said SIU women’s track and field head coach Connie Price-Smith.

Last year, the Salukis finished first in the field when SIU hosted the 4K Saluki Fast Start Open. Returning Saluki Noa Beitler won the race with a time of 13:55.73.

The Salukis will benefit from incoming freshmen Lindsey Campos, Nikki Edgecomb and Ty-nica Davis.

If the Salukis can dodge injury, they will sustain a larger roster than last season. With 10 runners on the team already, the Salukis are focusing on objectives.

[My goal] is for them to finish better than they did last year in the conference, Price-Smith said.

She believes the Salukis will have to adjust to their training in having her as the new coach.

Price Smith, a four-time Olympian, brings competitive experience to the team after taking over the reigns of the track and field program last September. She will work in conjunction with Jeff Jones, who has coached the Salukis since last August.

Price-Smith enjoys being with the women and the entire coaching process. The Salukis should benefit from the joy she brings to the field.

It’s good going out and working with the kids and being out helping them, Price-Smith said. I enjoy it a lot.

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