Updated: Jan 13
Written by Quenten Lasseter
Missouri Southern is coming off of a monster 2018 cross country season as they finished 11th in the nation as a team last fall. The interesting part is that they had zero seniors on the team, meaning that the Missouri Southern Tigers will be back and better than ever.
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The road to their 11th place finish at NCAA’s first started at the Southwest Baptist Invite. Freshman Gidieon Kimutai placed 2nd over the 7k distance in a time of 22:39. Not long after Kimutai’s finish was a string of three Tigers (Cody Berry, Josh Webb, Mike Shanahan) who came roaring through the line in spots 6-7-8. The team's #5 man, Nathan Painter, claimed a 10th place finish with a time of 23:16 to round out the scorers. Missouri Southern would defeat Washburn University (33 to 45) to take home the meet win.
The Tigers next hosted their annual home meet, the Missouri Southern Stampede at the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course which has hosted numerous D2 national championship meets. With various Division 1 teams and nationally ranked D2 teams in attendance, the Tigers second meet of the season was nothing but excitement. Missouri Southern’s top man Gidieon Kimutai impressively placed 2nd overall with an 8k time of 24:47. The next scorer was Cody Berry in 12th place with a time of 25:28. Nickson Kiptoo crossed the line in 20th, Josh Webb in 24th, and Mike Shanahan in 27th. The only team MSSU would end up losing to was Division 1 program Tulsa, a team that would go on to qualify for the national meet. In the process of finishing 2nd, Missouri Southern would beat nationally ranked teams such as Sioux Falls, Washburn, and West Texas A&M.
In a jam-packed Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival hosted by the University of Arkansas, the men of Missouri Southern held their own by impressively placing 6th out of 49 teams. The only D2 squad to beat the Tigers was Dallas Baptist University.
With over 400 athletes in the field, Gidieon Kimutai finished 15th overall with a time of 24:49. Josh Webb was the next up as he placed 43rd with a time of 25:39. Nickson Kiptoo was not too far behind as he finished in 55th, while Mike Shanahan finished in 69th and Tadd Capron crossed the line in 76th. A persistent Missouri Southern team would battle their way to a strong 6th place finish, further validating what was already an impressive season.
The men of Missouri Southern would then travel to the Fort Hays State Tiger Open. In the Men’s Gold 8k race, MSSU took 2nd place, ahead of West Texas A&M, Adams State, and Colorado Mines. Only losing to D1 Air Force. Gidieon Kimutai took home his first induvial win of the season with a time of 24:54. Teammate Nickson Kiptoo would cross the line in 12th with a time of 25:29. The third scorer for the Tigers was Cody Berry in 20th place, followed by Mike Shanahan in 27th, and Josh Webb in 28th.
The last race of the regular season for the Tigers was at the University of Central Missouri Mule Run, hosted by Central Missouri. Teammates Nickson Kiptoo and Gidieon Kimutai virtually finished together at the line with times of 25:27. Also virtually finishing together were teammates Cody Berry and Josh Webb with times of 25:33. Mike Shanahan would cap off the scorers with a 10th place finish as the Tigers won the meet with 22 points to Southwest Baptist’s 65 points.
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In dominate, fashion Missouri Southern would win the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 31 points to Nebraska-Kearns runner-up finish of 101 points. Gideon Kimutai was back to his winning ways as he took the conference crown with a time of 25:17. Cody Berry would come in 5th place with teammate Nickson Kiptoo right behind him in 6th. Josh Webb and Mike Shanahan were not far behind as they finished 8th and 11th, respectively to seal the deal for the Tigers. Through five scorers, this team continued to establish that they were capable of overwhelming their competition with top-tier firepower.
Missouri Southern continued winning as they took home the Central region title over Augustana (S.D.), giving them a birth to the National Championships. The Tigers top three runners ran a perfectly executed race as they had a tight group led by Gidieon Kimutai crossing the line in 1st, Nickson Kiptoo in 3rd, and Cody Berry in 4th. Josh Webb would finish in 13th giving him All-Region honors while Mike Shanahan would close out the scorers, finishing 34th overall.
Freshman Gidieon Kimutai’s first national meet appearance did not go unnoticed as he would go on to finish a jaw-dropping 4th place overall. He was the top freshman in the field and is considered to be the favorite for the individual national this fall. Mike Shanahan would step things up for the Tigers as he was the team's #2 scorer in 71st place. Jared Ozee would finish 86th, just 15 spots behind Shanahan. The rest of the lineup all stayed relatively close together as they finished 120th, 128th, 131st, and 165th, respectively.
It was far from perfect, and an additional top scorer would have been nice, but there was still a lot to be proud of. This team was young and in 2019 they will be hungry for more...
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With no departures on this roster and a national champion favorite in Gidieon Kimutai, the Missouri Southern Tigers are poised to make history as they return to the cross country course this fall. Their regular season performances were far better than what their national meet results say and we truly believe that their actual talent will be reflected during the fall of 2019.
Written by John Cusick
This seems odd that the reigning national champions come in at #6 on our rankings...right? Don’t worry, it feels just as weird with word that is typed into this document. They may make us regret it, but you'll have to stick around and at least let us tell you why...
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Last year was Grand Valley’s year. They were the presumed underdogs against the likes of Colorado Mines and Adams State headed into December, but we’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that things seemingly bounced their way during the 10k race in Slippery Rock.
However, before all of that, let’s talk about the regular season for the Lakers in 2018.
They had one of the greatest 1-2 runners in recent memory. Zach Panning and Enael Woldemichael were a de-facto 1st and 2nd place duo at almost every single meet they ran at. In fact, the only time they didn’t finish 1-2 was at the Bradley Pink Classic (1st and 3rd), the Midwest Regional Championships (2nd and 3rd) and the National Championships (2nd and 6th).
Unfortunately, those two are not on the 2019 Grand Valley State team. Panning has graduated and signed a professional contract while Woldemichael is not listed on the team roster for the upcoming season. This means instead of just finding a new #2, they will now have to find a new #1 and #2 for the upcoming season.
The good news is that they likely already have that top spot in sophomore Tanner Chada. Last year, Chada moved from being the team's final scorer on the team to a consistent and strong #3 option who played a big part in helping the Lakers take home the national title last fall.
Chada finished 23rd at the MSU Spartan Invitational, finishing as the #4 scorer that day for Grand Valley. The next time out he fell to the #6 runner for GVSU as he placed 26th at the Loyola Lakefront Collegiate Invitational. That, however, would be the last time he finished outside of the top three in terms of scoring for Grand Valley. He finished 18th at the Bradley Pink Classic, 4th at the GLIAC Championships, 6th at the Midwest Regional Championships, and then 21st at the NCAA Championships.
Chada has come along nicely leading up to this season as well. He took 10th place during the indoor season at the NCAA Championships in the 5000 meters. He then proceeded to improve upon that during the outdoor season where he finished 3rd in a very strong race. He comes away as the best number one option for the Lakers in 2019.
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Jacob Domaglaski is the second returner in 2019 that Grand Valley has. The senior saw a successful junior season where he fluctuated from being outside the top seven to being a strong contributor at the end of the season.
The first few meets of the season were admittedly not great for Domaglaski, but he dramatically improved as the season went on. At the Bradley Pink Classic Domagalski moved into the top five and served as the team's #4 scorer after a 37th place finish. He then replicated a pair of 13th place finishes at the GLIAC Championships and then at the Midwest Regional Championships acting as the team's final varsity runner both times before the NCAA meet. Given his progression from last year, we think he'll be a very strong, underrated piece on this team in 2019.
Coming back along with Chada and Domagalski is another sophomore in Ben Zaremba. He paced the Lakers in their first meet of the year by finishing 15th at the Calvin Knight Invite. He didn’t have great performances at the MSU Spartan Invitational or the Loyola Lakefront Collegiate Invitational, but he bounced back at the Bradley Pink Classic with a top 40 placing.
However, Zaremba's championship racing is where he made the biggest impact. He finished 8th at the GLIAC Championships and then followed that up with a 14th place finish at the Midwest Regional Championships. It didn’t fully translate into NCAA's, but his 45th placing was just enough to ensure that Grand Valley would take home the national title.
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Not only did GVSU lose Panning and Woldemichael, but they also lost Josh Steible and Brian Masayesva to graduation as well. This now means that they now have three returners from their entire top seven who raced at the national meet last year.
So where does the rest of the scoring group come from for the 2019 season?
Colin Hermann finished his 2018 campaign on a strong note as he recorded the three fastest times of the year all in his last three meets. After not breaking 26:00 in the first two meets of the year, he came back and ran 25:32, 25:25 and then 25:37. However, Herrmann saw most of his success during the track seasons.
Herrmann collected personal bests in the 3000 (8:37), the 5000 (14:25), and the 10,000 meters (29:44). Herrmann was likely just left off of the NCAA team in 2018, but I don’t think that will happen again in 2019. He has progressed gradually throughout the years and he looks primed to have another breakout season this fall.
Bennett Peterson is another young athlete who should make an impact within the scoring five in 2019. He’s just a sophomore this year, but showed promise during the 2018 season. After a slow start, Peterson broke out at the Loyola Lakefront Collegiate Invitational when he ran 25:43. He eventually finished 30th at the GLIAC Championships.
But the real reason why Peterson is likely to be a scorer on this team is because of what he did during the track season. He was just a freshman, but he posted marks of 4:14 (mile), 8:31 (3000), 14:41 (5000), and 9:14 (steeple). I expect Peterson to carry that success from the track to the cross country course this fall.
Other names that you should be on the lookout for include Garrett White, Connor Schwartz, and Joe Renner.
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Any way you see it, the Grand Valley men are still loaded with potential and depth. Their incoming recruiting class is also one worth keeping an eye on. Despite having this team at #5, they certainly could be better than that...much better than that.