MU cross country maintains high expectations despite challenges of new SEC format

Additional regulations and shortened season won’t faze runners.

On Aug. 30, SEC Network announced a new cross country start date of Sept. 11 and outlined the rules that teams must follow to compete.

Teams will participate in a minimum of two and a maximum of three meets, and the season will end Oct. 30 with Southeastern Conference Championships.

While other conferences and sports have prohibited competition with teams outside the conference, the SEC permits its cross country athletes to race against outside competitors. According to SEC Network, opponents “must adhere to SEC testing protocol the week leading into competition.”

In light of these new guidelines and the recent terminations of cross country seasons for teams across the country, the SEC’s motto, “It just means more,” takes on a new meaning for MU cross country athletes.

“The season can be taken away at a moment’s notice and they understand that and I think they value and appreciate the opportunity more than they ever have in their careers,” Coach Marc Burns said.

Redshirt senior Kieran Wood is grateful to be able to compete and has a positive outlook on his final collegiate cross country season.

“For me personally, I came to Mizzou because I wanted to race against the best and the SEC was where I could do that,” Wood said. “And we still have the SEC Championship, so we still get to pit ourselves against the best competition in the country.”

For Wood, who is coming off an injury that put him out of the SEC race last season, the cancellation of outdoor track and field last spring and the resulting extended offseason have been advantageous.

“It has benefitted me to be able to go back to the drawing board and focus on doing the rehab stuff properly without having to set a time frame,” Wood said.

On the women’s side, fellow redshirt senior Karina Liz believes that the extra time for build up and increased training and mileage will positively impact the team as a whole.

“We were able to get a full summer of base training, which is something that’s really important for cross country, so we really got time to focus on that and grind away this summer,” she said.

Now that the team has returned to campus, training for this season looks a little different.

“We’re changing the way we operate on the trail system,” Burns said. “We are running in groups of three at the most so that it allows for social distancing on the trail. We’re splitting up practice times so we’re not as many people at one time.”

As for racing, the Tigers will run in three events this season and the team looks forward to two home meets held at Gans Creek.

“We have an amazing new cross country course, a championship course, and that’s perfect timing that we were able to get this course done and up and running for this,” Burns said.

The National Championship will not take place this year. The team’s attention for this season will instead be focused on the conference meet.

“Last year we finished third at SECs, so finishing there or even higher would be really awesome for the team,” Liz said of the women’s team.

The men, who finished seventh at the conference race last year, hope to also score in the top three this season.

The Tigers will head to Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 19 for the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic to compete in their first meet of the season.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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