SOU hopes for history at nationals

One more race. That's all the Southern Oregon University men's cross country has left in what has already been the most successful cross country season in program history.

Of course that race is the NAIA National Championships. The fourth-ranked Raiders travel to Kenosha, Wisc., for Saturday's National Championships.

SOU's team will consist of Cameron Kreuz, David Laney, Ryan Ghelfi, Ryan Matz, Anthony Monteleone, Joe Rath and Chris Paterson.

Only Kreuz has experience at the National Championships, qualifying as an individual last year.

SOU coach Brent Ericksen expects his team to be ready.

"They've been doing it every other week so far this season,"

Ericksen said. "They trust us and we trust them. This is just a special team."

The Raiders have yet to be defeated by an NAIA team during the 2008 season. The two teams to beat SOU were NCAA Division I power Oregon and NCAA Division II stalwart Chico State.

At the Cascade Conference championships, the Raiders showed their team concept by running together and easily out-distancing second place Concordia 38-64.

All seven of SOU's runners finished in the top 21 and Kreuz finished second behind Concordia's Eric Burck.

"They ran really well," said Ericksen, who named conference coach of the year. "We wanted to start out fast because with that size of a field, teams would get spread out if they waited and that's what happened. Our strength is running five miles and it began to show at about the fourth mile that we had the race under control."

Ericksen says the Raiders need to run a similar race Saturday at the Nationals.

"With 335 people on the course, it's a huge race," Ericksen said.

"We don't want to get trapped behind people so we can't pass. That first mile is going to be critical."

SOU enters the Nationals ranked fourth in the nation, the highest ranking in the history of the program.

The top spot in the poll is held down by National Champion favorite Malone (Ohio).

They are followed by Azusa Pacific, Aquinas (Mich.) and Southern Oregon.

"Malone is a very impressive team," Ericksen said. "It's going to take an incredible day to beat them but I think we all have a shot."

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