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Both Raider cross country teams advance to nationals

For the second year in a row and the third time in school history, both the Southern Oregon University men's and women's cross country teams were included in the NAIA Championships field released Monday by the national office.

The races will be held Nov. 21 in Charlotte, N.C., at McAlpine Creek Park. The men's 8,000-meter race will begin at 10:30 a.m. local time, and the women's 5K starts at 11:30 a.m.

The Raider men earned the Cascade Conference's automatic bid for winning their eighth straight title Saturday in Salem behind individual champ Ray Schireman and five more top-12 finishers. They were ranked second in the final NAIA Top 25 poll, which was released Sunday.

The SOU women, who were fourth as a team at the CCC Championships, were ranked 21st in the final poll and received the eight of 12 at-large berths that were handed out. They were also an at-large team last year and in 2010, their only prior team appearance.

The men's field includes 36 teams (with seven individuals and one alternate apiece) and 85 more runners who earned individual berths. Oklahoma City University, the two-time defending champion, will be favored to win again after receiving 11 of 16 first-place votes. SOU, which had been ranked No. 1 all season, garnered four first-place votes and has finished second the last three years.

Three other men's teams from the CCC earned at-large spots: No. 9 College of Idaho and No. 23 Northwest Christian.

The women's field also includes 36 teams along with 82 individuals. The CCC advanced four teams: top-ranked Northwest Christian (which won the conference title and finished second in the NAIA last year), No. 6 College of Idaho, No. 19 Oregon Tech and SOU. The Raiders finished 25th as a team at last year's race, which was won by British Columbia.

College Football

The No. 8 spot in the NAIA Top 25 poll has served the Southern Oregon University football team well before, and the Raiders will try to make the most of it again going into the final game of the regular season.

Ranked No. 1 in the previous two polls, the Raiders (7-2 overall, 7-2 Frontier Conference) fell seven spots in the latest poll released Monday as a result of their 21-17 loss Saturday against Montana Tech. The only other top-10 team to lose was Reinhardt (Ga.), which went from No. 7 to No. 13.

Montana Tech (8-1) came into Saturday's matchup ranked ninth and moved up to No. 6 after clinching at least a share of the Frontier title. The Diggers can win it outright at home this week but will have to go through Montana Western (7-2), which went from 13th to 10th after a 52-6 win over Montana State-Northern.

Should Western upset Tech and SOU win at Eastern Oregon, there will be a three-way share for the conference title between Western, Tech and SOU. Preserving the No. 8 spot or moving up with a win would also mean a first-round home game for the Raiders Nov. 21 in the NAIA Championship Series.

Morningside (Iowa) took over the top spot with a 9-1 record and 14 of 15 first-place votes. The Mustangs lost their only game at NCAA Div. III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater, and along with fifth-ranked Doane (Neb.) (9-0) and sixth-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.) (8-0) are the only teams left that are undefeated against NAIA competition. Doane received the other first-place vote.

Last year's cutoff for the final at-large spot in the NAIA Championship Series was No. 15. Eastern Oregon was No. 16 after upsetting SOU in the regular-season finale and got left out.

SOU entered the postseason at No. 8 last year but went on to become the third-lowest-ranked team going into the postseason to win the title since NAIA Div. I and II merged in 1997. Carroll was No. 10 in 2002 and No. 9 in 2004 before winning both titles.

Eastern Oregon will enter Saturday's game 4-6 overall and 4-5 in the Frontier, coming off a 21-10 home win over College of Idaho. The Mountaineers have won their last two season finales in Ashland.

College Soccer

Southern Oregon University football player Mylz Blake and women's soccer player Allyson Ward have been selected to Capital One Academic All-District 4 teams, as voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Blake was one of 85 NAIA football players across the country selected to their respective all-district teams, and Ward was one of 51 women's soccer players. Both are now eligible to be voted onto CoSIDA Academic All-American teams, which will be announced later this month.

The Capital One program is designed to recognize student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom. To be eligible for consideration, one must have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.3 and be a starter or key reserve on his or her team.

Blake, a junior linebacker from Los Angeles, is a 3.41 communications major who has been a regular in SOU's starting lineup for three years. This season he has recorded 41 tackles, including 36 of the solo variety, four for losses and two sacks. He matched a season-high with eight tackles Saturday against Montana Tech, and in the season-opener at Carroll he picked off the first interception of his career. In three seasons, he's totaled 139 tackles and 4 ½ sacks.

Ward, a senior midfielder, is a 3.74 criminology major from Santa Rosa, Calif. A key cog in SOU's defense her first three seasons and an All-Cascade Conference selection in 2014, she is enjoying the best offensive campaign of her career with a team-high six goals, three of which have been game-winners. Prior to her goal in the second game of the season at William Jessup, she had gone 50 games without one. More recently she had the game-winning header in overtime in Oct. 10 at Northwest and, in SOU's very next game, had the game-winning header in the final minutes at Oregon Tech on Oct. 16.