Cross country MVC championship preview

On Saturday, Bradley will host the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championship at Newman Golf Course. 
The starting time for the men’s 8K race is 10:30 a.m. followed by the women’s 5K race at 11:30 a.m.
The men’s 8K course consists of two 2,000m loops. The first 2,000m loop (start to 2K) will consist of mostly flat terrain, while the second 2,000m loop (2K to 8K) will consist of rolling hills that will be repeated for three laps.
The women’s 5K course will consist of one 2,000m loop, followed by one 1,000m loop, and then another 2,000m loop. The first 2,000m loop (start to 2K) will be mostly flat. The 1,000m loop will be rolling hills and consist of the 3K to 4K of the men’s race. The final 2,000m loop (3K to 5K) consists of rolling hills and is the same for each race.
The defending champions are Southern Illinois for men’s who have won the last two conference titles and is lead by 2008 All-American Jeff Schirmer. 
Wichita State’s women’s team has won the last four conference titles. They are picked as favorites to defend their title this Saturday. 
Bradley is ranked as seventh in the men’s ranking and third in the women’s ranking.
But both Bradley teams have some hope.
Freshman Nicole Benson has earned three Missouri Valley Conference Athlete of the Week honors throughout the season and won her second cross country race at the SIU-Edwardsville Border Wars, helping the team pick up their second team victory of the season. Benson also holds the second best 5K time in the conference.
The women’s team is led by senior Katie Nowak who has also earned MVC Athlete of the Week this season. Nowak received her first career win and set a personal best at the Bradley Open this year as well.
The women’s ranking in the Midwest region is 11th, just three under conference favorite Wichita State. Following one behind Bradley is Illinois State.
The MVC has many teams ranked in the Midwest which shows the rate of competition will be intense in the women’s division this weekend.
The Bradley men’s team will have a tougher time competing against teams such as Southern Illinois, who is ranked sixth in the Midwest region, and Illinois State who is ranked 12th.
Junior Andrew Wieser earned MVC Athlete of the Week honors in the men’s division after his strong performance at the Border Wars as well as, helping the men’s team receive a third overall place at the meet.