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SOU men No. 4, women No. 15 in NAIA Top 25

As expected, Southern Oregon's men's and women's cross country teams got some preseason love this week when the initial NAIA coaches' Top 25 poll was released by the national office.

The Raider men will start at No. 4 in the rankings and received two of the 19 available first-place votes. The Raider women are 15th in a poll stuffed with other Cascade Conference teams, including top-ranked defending national champion Northwest Christian.

On the men's side, SOU had been the preseason No. 1 or 2 each of the last six seasons but will have to work their way back into the good graces of voters after illness led to absences that sunk the Raiders to 23rd overall at last year's NAIA Championships. With a roster that should again contend for a title if all its parts are healthy, the Raiders were the unanimous pick to win their ninth straight CCC title.

St. Francis (Ill.) will open at No. 1 despite the fact that it received fewer first-place votes (seven) than three-time defending champ Oklahoma City (nine), which will start at No. 2. At No. 11, College of Idaho is the only other CCC team among the top 25.

Seeking their third straight trip as a team to the NAIA Championships, the Raider women are in the only conference with four top-15 teams. Behind top-ranked NCU, College of Idaho is sixth and Oregon Tech is 12th. The Raiders return all but one runner who helped them to 14th place at last year's national meet.

Both SOU squads are set to report next week and will open on Sept. 9 at Western Oregon's Ash Creek Invitational.