Cross Country faces nation’s premier competition

By Symone Woolridge

The men and women’s cross-country teams went head-to-head with some of the best competition in the country Saturday at the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational.

The Blue 8K men’s race consisted of schools in the nation’s top 5, such as No. 1 Oklahoma State University, No. 2 University of Colorado, and No. 4 University of Oregon.

The Saluki men faced more than 350 runners from 51 schools. SIU finished in 16th place defeating Missouri Valley Conference members Indiana State University, Loyola University, and Illinois State University, who they will be competing against in a few weeks.


Coach Matt Sparks said the men had a different strategy in the pre-national meet Saturday.

“We had our top-five guys run together through about 90 percent of the race,” Sparks said. “I wanted our leader to take off and try to catch as many runners as they could.”

Senior Zach Dahleen happened to be the Saluki men’s leader. Dahleen was the only SIU men’s runner to finish within the top-100. This is his second time finishing first for SIU this season. Dahleen completed the race with a time of 24:31.40, finishing in 87th place overall.

“I think it’s great that we are running against the nation’s best teams,” Dahleen said. “We get to compete against very good runners.”

This is the men’s third race of the season, and they are anticipating the competition to become even more aggressive.

“When we are running in a race like regionals, we are running against the best of the nation and that’s a new thing for us,” Dahleen said. “We are still adjusting to it, but when we finally get to regional matches to go to nationals we will know how to run.”

Although Dahleen was the only Saluki top-100 runner, four other SIU runners finished within the top-200, which included junior Nick Schrader finishing 107th, senior Brian Dixon at 127th, and sophomores Oscar Medina and Juan Carrera 134th and 139th respectively.


The Saluki women completed their first 6K race of the season with two runners within the top-100 and finished 27th overall out of 49 schools.

The Salukis did not have an easy battle, as they competed against schools ranked within the top 10. The competition included schools such as No. 2 Florida State University, No. 5 University of Oregon, No. 6 Georgetown University and No. 8 Stanford University.

Sophomore Kelley Gallagher was the first Saluki to complete the women’s race out of 340 runners. Gallagher sprinted across the finish line with a time of 21:18.72, which was 82nd overall. A few seconds behind her was junior Sadie Darnell finishing the race in 87th place with a time of 21:21.10.

“Sadie and I were basically running the same race until the 100-meter mark,” Gallagher said. “We have never been that close for that long but it was nice to have my teammate right next to me.”

Gallagher said the Saluki women were extremely excited to compete against tough competition and they prepared themselves and committed to hard work.

“Coach (Sparks) stressed that we needed to come out fast and put ourselves out there if we wanted to finish successfully,” Gallagher said.

The Salukis have over a week to prepare before they travel to their next meet Nov. 2 at the MVC Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.