KANSAS CITY — Following a third-place national finish in 2011, the Southern Oregon men's cross country team is the preseason favorite to take the national title in 2012 according to the NAIA Preseason Coaches' Top 25 poll released Wednesday.
The SOU men's squad picked up eight of 18 first-place votes and totaled 486 points to grab the top spot in the preseason poll for the second consecutive year. The Raiders ranked first in the 2011 preseason poll after claiming the program's first national championship in 2010.
Southern Oregon returns five of its top eight runners from last year. Although the Raiders lose their top two finishers from 2011 in All-Americans Ryan Sorenson and James Johnstone, they return three runners who finished in the top-100 at last year's race. Matt Battaglia finished 65th overall, with Scott McIntyre (80th) and Brett Hornig (81st) helping SOU to its second-best national finish in program history. The 2012 squad will also feature top returners Brett Hornig, Tyler Van Dyke and Eric Avila.
The Raider women grabbed the 13th spot in the NAIA poll, the third-highest ranking Cascade Collegiate Conference team behind College of Idaho (fourth) and Northwest Christian (fifth). Alexandra Rudd leads a group of women's returners for SOU after finishing 57th at last year's NAIA meet. Summer Cano and Anne Hagy join Rudd as previous NAIA qualifiers returning for the Raiders.
Southern Oregon opens the season Sept. 8 at the Humboldt State Invite in Arcata, Calif. The 2012 CCC Championship Meet will be Nov. 3 at Portland's Lents Park, and the NAIA National Meet will be Nov. 17 at Ft. Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash., where the SOU men won the 2010 national title.