Valparaiso, Ind. – Earning its first national team berth since 2005 and taking third overall in arguably the NAIA's toughest cross country conference over the weekend, it has been an exciting last few days for the Saint Xavier University men's cross country team. The Cougars took third place in Saturday's Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Cross Country Championship behind only No. 4 ranked Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and No. 1 ranked and defending NAIA national champion University of St. Francis (Ill.) with 77 team points. On Sunday, SXU learned it was ranked No. 16 nationally in the final NAIA Men's Cross Country Coaches' Top 25 Poll of the season and the ranking proved high enough to give the Cougars an at-large berth for the national meet when it was officially announced Monday afternoon.
Leading the way once again for Saint Xavier was senior Brian Corcoran (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice), who finished fourth among the 118 runners in the meet with an outstanding time of 25:34 over the 8K (8,000-meter) course. Corcoran's fourth-place finish earned him all-conference recognition, along with the second Cougar finisher, sophomore Eric Hancock (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) with a ninth-place finish in a time of 26:00. The third runner to finish for SXU Saturday was senior Shane Kenney (Porter, Ind./Chesterton), followed closely by freshman Abel Hernandez (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) in 25th and 26th place respectively, in times of 27:02 and 27:05. The fifth scorer for the Cougars was junior Kyle Counter (Manhattan, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) in 31st place with a time of 27:29. Following Counter were seniors Chris Sarna (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg) in 35th place at 25:41, senior Chris Shellenberger (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) in 47th place at 28:32 and senior Brian Meyer (Bloomington, Ill./Ashford University/Bloomington) in 48th place at 28:35.
"It was not one of our better team races, but I can find many bright spots about today," said Saint Xavier University men's cross country coach Ed McAllister. "Corcoran had an outstanding race. He is really reaching top form, as is Hancock. We are pretty banged-up right now with injuries to Shellenberger and Meyer and the younger guys, especially Kyle Counter and Abel Hernandez, really stepped up for us this weekend. Finally, senior Shane Kenney had his finest meet of the season. Shane always finds a way to get the job done when the pressure is on the line and this day was no exception. It feels great to get the at-large bid to Nationals, because this team really deserves it and we're reaching our top form."
Saint Xavier begins preparing for its trip to Lawrence, Kansas, for the NAIA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, November 23. The meet takes place at Rim Rock Farm and the meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.