2017 Men's Cross Country Preview
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The 2017 Cross Country season is on the horizon, and this year the field is wide open in the chase for the Southwestern Athletic Conference title. As Grambling State – who has won the men’s crown for the past two years – is unable to go for a three-peat due to NCAA sanctions, we are guaranteed to see a new champion this season. Below are brief capsules for the teams as they prepare to get their campaigns underway.
2016 finish: Fourth at SWAC Championships
Alabama State took a brief step back in 2016, going from a third-place result in 2015 to fourth. The Hornets enter 2016 looking to get over the hump for the first time since 2008. Andrew Jackson, the team’s top individual runner from prior season’s championship race is set to return along with Gregory Thigpen and Joshua Coffelt, both of whom finished in the top 25. The Hornets have the pieces in place to be competitive and the schedule looks like a good litmus test, but time will tell if the squad has what it takes to lift the program’s first title since 2008.
2016 finish: Ninth at SWAC Championships
The Braves were arguably the youngest team on the trails in 2016, and that lack of experience showed. However, Qaseem Wajd flashed potential as an anchor runner, and with another year of experience under their belt, Alcorn State could be ready to take a step forward in hopes of bettering its position within league ranks.
2016 finish: Seventh at SWAC Championships
Much of the Golden Lions’ unit from 2016 is set to return, and leading the way is Wade Garner, who earned second-team all-SWAC honors after a top 10 finish in his freshman year. While the sophomore is clearly the top runner for UAPB, the Lions need more from the rest of the team, as no other runner finished in the top 35 individually in 2016. However, many of those runners are projected to return, so UAPB won’t hurt for experience.
2016 finish: Won SWAC Championships
Though Grambling State is unable to defend its title this season, the 2015 and 2016 SWAC Champions are more than capable of competing on the trails against anyone. With two-time Runner of the Year Hassan Chepkwony and fellow first-team All-Conference athlete Noah Rugut leading the charge and Hilary Kiprop and Jeremiah Kimeli more than capable of holding their own, Grambling from top to bottom should be in the running for any meet it steps foot in.
2016 finish: Third at SWAC Championships
Jackson State is definitely trending upward but the Tigers will have to get over the hump without their top athlete from last season in James Curtis (second place) among others, as JSU appears to have the most to replace from the previous season. That said, Darrion Hampton and Eclecius Franklin were top-20 finishers last season and are set to return, so the onus is on the newer faces to help fortify the Tigers’ championship hopes.
Mississippi Valley State
2016 finish: Sixth at SWAC Championships
The Delta Devils look like a true dark horse pick to contend for the title as first-team All-Conference runners Aaron Albert and John Akakeya are expected to return to the fold for Coach Fermon Tate’s unit. Assuming those two maintain their level of performance and names like Timothy Misoy, Ahmad Sykes, Brandon McCall and Joseph Mitchell continue to improve, Mississippi Valley – which has no expected personnel losses from the 2016 team due to graduation or any other reason – is primed to return to the top of the heap in the land of SWAC cross country.
Prairie View A&M
2016 finish: Second at SWAC Championship
Consistency from top to bottom is the name of the game when it comes to winning team meets, and Prairie View showed that to be the case when it placed six runners in the top 25 slots during last year’s championships on its way to a runner-up finish. The good news for Coach Chris Clay and the Panthers? Four of those runners – including second-team All-SWAC runner Levante Williams and former first-teamer Aaron Austin – are prepped to run again in 2017. On paper, the Panthers are one of, if not the, early season favorites to claim the men’s title this season, but titles aren’t won on paper.
2016 finish: Eighth at SWAC Championships
Saddled with having to face the adversity that comes with roster turnover, the Jaguars trotted out four freshman at the SWAC Championships and like Alcorn State, the youthful unit took its lumps in finishing near the rear. Southern does return its top finish in Keshaun Javois as well as Issac Brown and Walter Mixon, but the Jaguars are set to bring along several new faces, similar to their 2016 season. The Jaguars will have to grow up quickly if they want to contend this season.
2016 finish: Fifth at SWAC Championships
Despite having two runners who finished in the top 10 at the 2016 championships, Coach Clyde Duncan’s Tigers did not get the result they are accustomed to as the team’s finish dropped from second to fifth. D’Andre Lewis, a second-team All-SWAC runner and one of the best mid-distance runners in the league is set to return as the top athlete for the team and key pieces like Jose Medina and Austin Brown are projected to return as well. However, the Tigers must avoid a slump similar to last season if they hope to finally kick down the door to the conference crown.