By: Mike DeVader, Communications & Sports Information Intern
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — (Team Qualifiers | Individual Qualifiers) Thirty-six teams and 76 individuals will invade Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., for the 59th Annual NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championships on Saturday, hosted by the Lawrence Sports Corporation and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC).
The 8-kilometer championship takes place at 11:45 a.m. CST on Nov. 22, shortly after the completion of the women's 5-kilometer championship which is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. CST. The Championships Award Ceremony will be held at Abe and Jake's Landing in Lawrence, Kan., and will begin at approximately 2:30 p.m.
The field is comprised of 22 conference, Association of Independent Institutions and unaffiliated grouping champions; a host bid (Friends (Kan.)); and 13 at-large selections.
At-large berths were awarded to the highest-ranked schools in the 2014 NAIA Men's Cross Country Coaches' Top 25 Poll who did not win their conference championship.
The at-large selections include – British Columbia, College of Idaho, Concordia (Ore.), Eastern Oregon, Goshen (Ind.), Indiana Tech, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), Marian (Ind.), Northwestern (Iowa), Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), Oregon Tech, Taylor (Ind.) and Wayland Baptist (Texas).
The Bulldogs of Tennessee Wesleyan join the race after winning the AAC Championships in Dayton, TN on November 8th. TWC enters the race ranked #4 in the NAIA Coaches Top 25 and looks for a win for the first time in school history.
Oregon Tech was the only at-large program not ranked in the final regular-season edition of the Top 25, which can be viewed here.
Defending national champion Oklahoma City looks to regain its crown against stern competition when the Stars hit the course on Saturday. Oklahoma City has earned the top billing of the 2014 Coaches' Top 25 Poll for 10-consecutive editions, dating back to the 2013 postseason rating.
Last year, the Stars won their first national crown by finishing the 8K track in a combined time of 2:05:11 and accumulated 77 total points to best the 32-team field. Four of the scoring five for Oklahoma City earned All-America honors, led by Peter Koskey, who finished eighth overall in 2013 with a time of 24:47.
Koskey, a junior from Keringet, Kenya, has collected the Sooner Athletic Conference's (SAC) Men's Cross Country Runner of the Week three times this season, and has helped lead the Stars to first-place finishes in all but one meet this season – a second-place finish in the NCAA Division II Missouri Southern Stampede on Sept. 20 in Joplin, Mo.
The Oklahoma City standout finished second individually in the SAC Championships behind Benard Keter of Wayland Baptist, who is also competing on Saturday.
The Stars look to become the second program in NAIA men's cross country history to run the table being ranked No. 1 since Malone in 2008.
2013 runner-up Southern Oregon returns for another shot at a national championship thanks to a seventh-straight Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) title. Max Runia led the Southern Oregon charge in the CCC meet with a 24:55 8K finish.
The Raiders enter the competition hoping to snap a string of two-consecutive second-place finishes at the NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championships. The squad won the NAIA title in 2010, and has since finished in the top-three every year. An experienced Southern Oregon group looks primed to grab the banner in 2014.
With their No. 2 ranking in the final Top 25 Poll, the Raiders have been ranked in the top-two for 39-straight editions of the Top 25, dating back to Aug. 22, 2012.
Mizael Carrera, a senior from Robert Morris (Ill.), could be the favorite to take home the individual title. The Northlake, Ill., native is the highest returning competitor from last year's championships, having finished third with a time of 24:25.
Each team in the top 10 of the Nov. 9 release will be in Lawrence Kan., to fight for it all, as seven of those programs won their respective conference championship meets – including every team in the top five. No. 6 Olivet Nazarene, No. 9 Eastern Oregon and tenth-ranked British Columbia earned at-large bids.
Winners of the conference, Association of Independent Institutions and unaffiliated grouping meets received automatic berths to the national championships. To view the results, click here.
Built in 1974, Rim Rock Farm has been home to three Big Eight Championships (1983, 1991 and 1995), the NCAA Division I and II Championships (1998), two Big 12 Championship (2006, 2014) and dozens of high school state championships.
This is the second-straight year Rim Rock Farm has hosted the event.
For all other information regarding the Men's Cross Country National Championships, click here.