Wednesday, August 22, 2012
MACON, Ga. - Two-time defending individual champion Gilbert Kemboi and his USC Upstate teammates narrowly edged out Kennesaw State to top the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Men's Cross Country poll. The coaches also selected Kemboi as the Preseason Runner of the Year while the fan vote on Facebook handed ETSU's Filip Jalovy the Fan's Choice Preseason Runner of the Year.
The Spartans and Owls split the 10 available first-place votes, but USC Upstate garnered one more second place vote than KSU to account for the one-point advantage.
Kemboi earned Preseason Runner of the Year honors as he continues one of the most decorated careers in A-Sun history. The senior claimed Runner of the Year honors last season after winning his second-straight individual crown and leading the Spartans to their first team title. He would also go on to be voted the A-Sun's Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Kemboi won the 2011 championship with a time of 24:27.01, the fourth-best mark in conference history. The Spartans return their top-six runners from last year's title winning squad, led by the senior quartet of Kemboi, Davey Dennison, Christian Ritacco and Cameron Thomas.
The Owls look to set to play co-favorite behind the strength of two returning All-Atlantic Sun runners, Nabil Hamid and Ryan Burress. Hamid finished second at the A-Sun Championship and would go on to qualify for NCAA Nationals as an individual while Burress claimed a ninth-place showing at the conference meet.
Lipscomb lurks in third one year after placing four runners in the top-20 including senior Ashton Fisher. ETSU and North Florida complete the top-five of the preseason poll.
Nine of last year's 14 all-conference runners are slated to return including Jalovy, the reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year. The conference championship will be hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University on Saturday, October 27.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.