AUGUSTA, GA – The Columbus State men’s cross country team has been selected as the preseason favorite in a poll of Peach Belt Conference head coaches released today. The Cougars received six of a possible eight first-place votes and stand atop the poll with 59 points, just ahead of second-place Clayton State with 55. UNC Pembroke is third in the voting followed by GCSU, Augusta State and Montevallo. Flagler, Francis Marion and Armstrong Atlantic State round out the voting.
Columbus State won their fourth consecutive PBC Championship in 2009, which is tied for the second-longest winning streak in PBC history. The Cougars also finished second at the NCAA Regional and advanced to the National Championships. For 2010, head coach J.D. Evilsizer returns four of his top five runners, including junior Meshack Koyiaki who won the PBC Championship and finished second in the NCAA regional in a photo finish. Also back are senior Nicholas Kerring who was third at the PBC and fourth at the regional along with senior John Neill who was named All-Conference in 2009. David Marley also returns with one last year of eligibility as a graduate student after being named All-Conference last season.
Clayton State finished second at the 2009 Peach Belt championship and tied for fifth in the NCAA regional. Returning for the Lakers in 2010 is senior Fidelis Mutiso, who was named a co-PBC Runner of the Year along with CSU’s Koyiaki last year. Mutiso finished seventh at the NCAA regionals and earned an individual spot in the national championship race. In addition to Mutiso, head coach Mike Mead returns senior Jarrid Casimir who finished 17th at the PBC and sophomore Ayrton Azcue who was 24th at the conference meet.
UNC Pembroke finished third at the 2009 PBC meet, their best finish at the conference championships since 2003. From there, the Braves finished in a tie for fifth with Clayton State at the NCAA Regionals. Head coach Gary Aycock returns three of his top four runners for 2010 including sophomore Pardon Ndhlovu who was second at the 2009 Peach Belt Championships and fifth at the NCAA Regionals. His time at the NCAAs qualified him to run as an individual at the national championships. Also returning for UNCP are juniors Zachary Bayless, who was 12th at the PBC, and Kevin Clancy who ran 19th at the conference meet.
The Peach Belt Conference will have a new look in men’s cross country for 2010 as both Montevallo and Augusta State launch their men’s programs, bringing the total number of teams to nine, the most the league has had since 2002. Coaches Michael Marquardt at UM and Adam Ward at ASU will coach the new men’s teams alongside the established women’s programs. Also new in the league is Armstrong Atlantic State coach Alan Segal.
The 2010 season begins on Sept. 10 with a full slate of races and continues on through the PBC Championships on Saturday, Nov. 6., at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga. The championships will be a part of the first-ever PBC Fall Festival which combines the men’s and women’s soccer championships with the cross country event at the same facility over the same weekend.
The coaches poll is listed below, coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
|1. Columbus State||6||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||59|
2. Clayton State
|3. UNC Pembroke
|5. Augusta State
|8. Francis Marion
|9. Armstrong Atlantic St.