Cross Country Preview: Men
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Cross country season is right around the corner, and after narrowly winning the SWAC Championship in 2015 Grambling State looks to an experienced yet youthful corps as it begins its championship defense. But with Texas Southern, Alabama State, Alcorn State and the like right in the mix, Grambling’s aspiration of repeat success won’t come easy.
2015 finish: Third at SWAC Championships
After another third-place finish, the Hornets enter 2016 looking to get over the hump for the first time since 2008. However, they will have to do so without second-team All-SWAC runner Bryont Brown, who posted the best individual finish for the Hornets at the SWAC championships. Back in the fold, however, are Gregory Thigpen, Tyree Newton and Andrew Coicou, who are the most experienced athletes on the team.
2015 finish: Seventh at SWAC Championships
On paper, the Braves have the most work to do when it comes to bettering their standing within the league, as Alcorn State lost its top two finishers from the 2015 championships – Mario Martinez and Darien Hennington – to graduation. With Christopher Jefferson and Jabari Thompson the most experienced runners returning, Alcorn State will be breaking in a couple of new faces on the trails during the season.
2015 finish: Eighth at SWAC Championships
The 2015 Golden Lions felt the personnel losses from 2014, but after a step back last season, UAPB returns the bulk of the prior campaign’s group and with several runners projected to have multiple years of eligibility, the team’s best days may lie ahead. Harlan Clarke and Malique Smith lead the list of top returnees for Coach Chris McCoy.
2015 finish: Won SWAC Championships
Anchored by sophomore Hassan Chepkwony and senior Monteico Harris, the Tigers are in good shape to potentially retain its crown. Chepkwony, the defending individual champion and incumbent Runner of the Year, posted a litany of top-5 finishes for Grambling last season and was dominant at the championships. Additionally, Harris was a first-team all-conference selection. The loss of Malik Wheeler is glaring, but Termaine Harvey and Jeremiah Bias should both return to provide a formidable group for Coach Bertram Lovell.
2015 finish: Fourth at SWAC Championships
On the heels of consecutive fourth-place team finishes over the last two seasons, Jackson State comes into 2016 with a seasoned unit that stands to be one of the top adversaries toward Grambling’s designs on a repeat. First-teamer James Curtis projects to return for his senior year, and expected to flank him will be junior Eclecius Franklin and seniors Rahim Aponte and Jacques Williams.
Mississippi Valley State
2015 finish: Sixth at SWAC Championships
In 2015, the Delta Devils got a third-place finish from first-team runner Aaron Albert, who should enter his junior year as the clear-cut No. 1 runner, but Albert was the lone MVSU athlete to garner a top-20 placing last season. Now with another season under its belt and the entirety of the unit expected to return to Itta Bena, Mississippi Valley’s stable of runners looks to take a step forward and break through to the upper-echelon of league teams.
Prairie View A&M
2015 finish: Fifth at SWAC Championship
While the Panthers were unable to successfully defend their 2014 title, Prairie View looks like one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Clinton, Miss. this fall. PVAMU is set to return All-SWAC selections Jarrod Ballou, Aaron Austin and Syed Hussain, each of whom would be entering their junior season. Aaron Austin finished second overall last season, and Hussain claimed a sixth-place result. With a championship-winning core projected to be in place, it is reasonable for the Panthers to have high expectations this season.
2014 finish: Ninth at SWAC Championships
As a youthful team that flashed potential last season, the Jaguars look to continue building entering 2016. Sophomore Andrew Pena (ninth in 2015) provides the Jaguars with a No. 1 runner, and Jorge Martinez and Jordan Pitts both earned top-20 results during last year’s championship race. Assuming offseason improvements were made, Southern could be a dark horse candidate to considerably improve upon last season’s results.
2015 finish: Runner-up at SWAC Championships
Another year, another close finish. Texas Southern, who was less than two seconds off the title-winning pace of Grambling, has been at the doorstep of the league crown for the past two years, and 2016 may be the year for Clyde Duncan’s group. The Tigers aren’t expected to lose any of its chief runners from last season, as junior Abraham Morales – a second-team honoree -- will anchor the squad. Consistency was the strength of the unit last season as three other runners finished in the top 15. All of them – Jose Medina, D’Andre Lewis and Xavier Martinez – are set to return, making TXSO, at least on paper, a title contender.