Saluki runners keep their eyes focused on end-of-season goals
The Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) cross-country team hopes to hit the ground running when it opens its 2017 season in early September.
The Salukis will see 13 returning athletes, including five members of the men’s team and eight members of the women’s team. In a press release, head coach Kevin Cataldo said the team is counting on a solid performance at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and looks to have several runners qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Runners reported to camp in mid-August. One runner to watch on the men’s side is junior Josh Maier, who finished in 13th place at the 2016 MVC Cross Country Championships and was the highest finisher for SIU in six meets last year. Maier is coming off of a strong outdoor track and field season, which saw him win the conference title in the 5K.
Another strong runner for the men is senior Jonathan Vara, the team’s second-best runner at the MVC Championships. In 2015, the Chicago native recorded two top-10 finishes at meets and set a personal best time of 21:02.2 in the 5K.
The women’s team will be bolstered by sophomore Megan Krolak, who transferred to SIUC from Illinois State University. Last year, Krolak finished in fourth place at the Notre Dame Invitational, less than four seconds behind the winner.
Natalie Hajduk is one of the strongest Salukis returning this season. Hajduk, now a senior, was the team's top finisher at four of her five meets last year and qualified for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships.
Shannon Effron also qualified for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships in 2016 and was the team's top finisher at one meet last year. She also took sixth place at the Forest Park XC Festival.
Chrissa Harris is new to the cross-country team but is an experienced track and field athlete who missed all of last year’s season due to injury. She is a senior from Carbondale.
The Salukis men’s and women’s teams will compete in five meets during the 2017 season, starting early September and ending in mid-October at the Pre-Nationals meet at the University of Louisville.
"All the big meets are in preparation for the MVC conference meet," Cataldo said in the press release. "We have a good conference, so if we are comfortable running in bigger fields we won't be as nervous to tackle the conference meet, which is typically a much smaller, more competitive field."
For more information about the upcoming cross country season, visit www.siusalukis.com.