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Cross country men picked to finish third, women sixth

Season begins Friday at Belmont-VU Opener

August 29, 2012 · Athletic Communications

Preseason Release (PDF)

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Middle Tennessee cross country was picked to finish third in men's competition and sixth in women's, the conference office announced Wednesday.

Head coach Dean Hayes and the Middle Tennessee cross country teams are looking to build on last year's success as they kick off the season at the Belmont-VU Opener in Nashville, Tenn., this Friday at 4 p.m.

The men return Nos. 2, 3 and 4 from last season's team that finished third in the Sun Belt Conference Championships.  Robinson Simatei (6th), Silas Taiget (14th) and Keith Davis (18th) will play a key in MT's chase for the Sun Belt title.  Other runners expected to compete are Daniel Ketter, a native of Kenya, and Alden Dixon, who placed third in the 3,200 and the 1,600 meter runs at the 2012 TSSAA State Championships last season.

"We may not have a true number one like we did with Justus Davis, but I think we are more solid," Hayes said.  "In cross country, it's better to be solid all-around than just that one guy."

The men's squad is currently ranked fourth in the Division I South Region.

For the women, 2011 returners are Autumn Gipson, Stephanie Smith, Rachel Islam and Tressanique Hampton.  Gipson finished 21st at last year's Sun Belt Championships, while Islam (49th), Smith (66th) and Hampton (68th) helped solidify a sixth-place finish at the conference meet.  Lucy Kapkiai, who led the Blue Raiders in every race last season, will not run opening weekend but will return later in the season.

Western Kentucky's men's team was predicted to repeat as Sun Belt champions, while the women were chosen to claim the crown for the seventh year in a row.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.