With the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship Cross Country meet this Saturday, it marks the beginning of the end for the Redbirds season, as the only competitions after Saturday are the NCAA Midwest Regional and NCAA Championships.
The ISU men enter the meet riding high after Pre-Nationals, in which junior Ryan Rutherford set an ISU-record for his time in an 8K, as well as showing the rest of the MVC that their fourth place ranking in the MVC’s preseason polls was perhaps a bit too low. Coach Bovee was pleased with the way the team competed against fellow Valley teams at the previous race.
“For the men, we had a couple of wins over some Valley teams today, who are currently ranked ahead of us in the regional rankings. Southern (Illinois) had a great race today. Their top five are solid and are going to be tough to beat at conference, but are getting better week-to-week.”
The Redbird men finished 39th at Pre-Nationals, finishing two spots ahead of Loyola, who was third in the in the preseason polls, and seven spots ahead of Indiana State, who was selected second. Southern Illinois was the preseason favorite in the MVC, and lived up to the billing with a 16th-place showing at Pre-Nationals. It will be interesting to see if anyone can compete with the Salukis this Saturday.
The men are led by Rutherford, but expect a good performance from sophomore Tyler Morse, who has made a name for himself on the team this season.
On the women’s side, ISU was selected as the preseason favorite in the conference, but got off to a bit of a slow start at the beginning of the year – losing to Bradley at home in the Illinois State Invite earlier in the season. They also finished a place behind Southern Illinois at Pre-Nationals, but Coach Bovee has preached all season that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“Last year, we lost at home, but at the end of the year, when it mattered most, we’re at our best, and I know [at the MVC Championship], we’ll be at our best,” Bovee said.
The Redbirds have a lot to prove in this final race against the Valley, but if history is of any indicator, it looks like it will be a big day for the Redbird women.
The women are headlined by senior Rachael Brewer, junior Kim Christensen and senior Kristen Zillmer, but any of the other women on the team could have a big day as well. It will be interesting to see what happens on the women’s side.
The race will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.