After a season of laying a foundation in 2008, head coach Brian Patton and the Greenville College men's cross country program are committed to reestablishing their place as the top squad in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season.
The Panther team, featuring 10 returners is dependent on the efforts of four members of the 2008 SLIAC all-conference team, six other letterwinners, and a solid group of newcomers in regaining its position as SLIAC champion. Prior to the 2008 championships, Greenville had won the previous 11 SLIAC championship meets before Fontbonne narrowly took the title by one point last season. Greenville holds the record with 11 SLIAC men's cross country championships.
"We will be relying heavily on a young class of runners and particularly the development of a freshman class of newcomers that numbers eight," said Patton. "I am anxious to see how last year's newcomers have matured over the summer to add with this talented freshman class."
Patton, now in his 16th season as head men's cross country coach, led the squad to championships in the conference meet in all but four of his previous seasons. Along the way, he or members of his coaching staff received conference coach of the year honors a record-breaking 10 times.
The leader of the Panthers this season will be 2008 most valuable runner Rodney Oyler, a senior of Macon, Ill. Oyler was the 2008 SLIAC champion and a member of the SLIAC all-conference first team in 2007 and 2008. In the 2006 championships, Oyler was a SLIAC all-conference second team recipient.
Junior Cole Prins, of Erie, Ill., also returns in 2009. Prins was a SLIAC all-conference first team member in 2008 after earning a position on the SLIAC second team in 2007.
Sophomores Leo Pathy, of Palos Heights, Ill., and Coree Woltering, of Ottawa, Ill., round out the group of returning all-conference runners. Both men raced to spots on the SLIAC all-conference second team last season.
An appearance at Millikin University on Tuesday, Sept. 1, begins the Greenville cross country season. The Panthers will also participate in the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships at Illinois State University, the Greater Louisville Classic at the University of Louisville, and the Illinois College Invitational. The 2009 SLIAC championships are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31, in Hillsboro, Ill.
"It is going to take a total team effort for us to become SLIAC champions again," said Patton.
The men compete at the NCAA Division III midwest regional at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh on Saturday, Nov. 14, as they attempt to qualify for the NCAA Division III national championships at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 21.