Cross-country prepares for SEC championship, looks toward national championship berth

Karissa Schweizer will look to defend her conference title this Friday in Athens, Georgia.
Missouri cross country runners prepare for the SEC Championships on Oct. 11.

The Missouri cross-country teams will kick off postseason racing at the Southeastern Conference championship in Athens, Georgia, on Friday.

Senior Karissa Schweizer will look to repeat as the individual champion after winning last year’s conference title with a time of 20:10.6 in the 6K race in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Following Schweizer will be redshirt senior Megan Cunningham and senior Jamie Kempfer. Cunningham is coming off of a personal record of 20:50.9 in the Pre-National Invitational on Oct. 14.

Kempfer, a returning All-American and All-SEC selection, made her season debut at the Pre-National Invitational, but didn’t finish the race due to a hip injury that kept her out of Missouri’s first three meets of the season.

Head coach Marc Burns said the team’s performance at the SEC championship will go a long way in helping put the women’s team in a position for a berth to the NCAA championship in November.

“On the women’s side, we have to beat some teams this weekend,” Burns said. “The nice thing about the SEC is that there are a bunch of teams in other regions. Those regions aren't quite as deep as our region. Vandy, Georgia and Ole Miss all have really good chances of getting out of their region. If we can beat one of them then that can help us gain some points.”

For Missouri, there are two ways to qualify for the national championship. The most straightforward way is for Missouri to finish in the top two at the Midwest Regionals on Nov. 10 and receive an automatic berth to the national championship. However, after starting the season ranked first in the Midwest region, Missouri has slipped to fifth in the region's most recent poll, making an automatic bid uncertain.

The next option for Missouri would be to receive one of the 13 at-large berths to the championships. The at-large berths are determined by which teams accumulate the most head-to-head points over the course of the regular season.

Accumulating head-to-head points are what makes the SEC championship vital for the Tigers. Head-to-head points are defined as regular season wins over teams who automatically qualified for the national championship in their respective regions.

The SEC is filled with potential qualifiers, which gives Missouri opportunities to pick up much-needed points. Arkansas is ranked first in the women’s South Central region and the SEC contains five of the top seven teams in the South, according to the latest U.S Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.

For the men’s team, redshirt sophomore Thomas George is coming off of a personal record of 24:12.4 in the 8K at the Pre-National Invitational. George will be followed by redshirt senior Marc Dubrick, who has finished in the top two for Missouri in every race but one this season.

Also running for the men’s team will be redshirt sophomore Michael Widmann and freshman Austin Hindman. Widmann was an All-SEC Freshman Team selection after finishing 52nd with a time of 25:50.3 in last year’s 8K race.

Hindman finished 200th at the Pre-National Invitational with a time of 25:15.5 while running his first 8K of the season.

Burns is looking for a complete race from both teams after a disappointing race two weeks ago at the Pre-National Invitational.

“The goal is to put together a complete race,” Burns said. “I thought we ran really well at [the Cowboy Jamboree]. We didn't have a great race two weeks ago. When you go out hard and are ready to battle, then you can knock off some teams that are ahead of you on paper. The goal on the women’s side is a top-three finish and the goal on the men’s side is top-five. If we compete at our best, and we let the chips fall, that’s where we hope to be.”

Edited by Joe Noser |

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