Missouri cross country prepares for first home meet since 2014

The Tigers will host nearby schools at LA Nickell Golf Course in Columbia on Friday.

On Friday, Missouri men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in a home meet for the first time since 2014.

The Mizzou Cross Country Opener will take place at L.A. Nickell Golf Course in Columbia. Women’s teams will race a 4-kilometer course at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s teams will race on the 6-kilometer version at 6 p.m.

The competition is one of two that Missouri will host in the 2019 season, which coach Marc Burns says is an important step forward for his program.

“It’s something that we’ve needed,” Burns said following his team’s practice on Monday. “It’s huge for our kids [and] it’s huge for the program... our kids want to run in front of a home crowd. It’s exciting for them.”

Though the Tigers won’t race on Columbia’s new Gans Creek course until the end of September, Friday’s meet is a chance for the team’s runners to experience a local atmosphere — many of them for the first time.

“It’s different,” sophomore Tori Findley said. “It’s not on our home course yet, but just to be in the atmosphere and be in Missouri is going to be really cool.”

There’s also a practical benefit to hosting a meet: runners’ travel time is measured in minutes, not hours.

“We’re not going to have to travel four, five hours in a bus,” redshirt senior Thomas George said. “It’s going to be super convenient.”

By eliminating the stress of travel, the Tigers will also benefit in the classroom.

“Some meets, if you race on a Friday, you’re leaving on a Wednesday afternoon and you miss two days of school,” senior Kieran Wood said. “The fact that we’re able to keep on top of school means [we] get to race day and [we’ve] done what [we] need to do.”

Missouri will host nearby competition on Friday, including St. Louis University and Missouri State University’s women’s team. The Tigers will give 39 runners a chance to compete. Twelve runners are expected to make their Missouri or collegiate debut according to the team’s starting lines.

Coaches polls released

The Southeastern Conference’s Preseason Coaches Poll and United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association’s regional rankings were both released on Monday. Missouri’s men’s team was ranked No. 6 in the SEC and No. 10 in the Midwest region. The women’s team was ranked No. 5 in the SEC and No. 8 in the region.

“[It’s] not where we want to be, but we know we’ve got to go out and prove otherwise,” Burns said. “Last year, we totally outperformed the preseason polls and that’s our goal right now.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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