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Missouri cross country teams look to experienced runners for success

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 9:01 p.m. CDT; updated 2:58 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 31, 2012
Senior Bailey Belvis discusses the route for the Missouri women's cross-country team's morning run Thursday . Belvis, a former All-Big 12 runner, will compete in the SEC for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Missouri Open at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s and women’s cross country teams plan to “bring it” this season.

But first they have to get to the basics.

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Head coach Joe Lynn, who became the men’s coach in 2011 and took over the women’s side this season, has high expectations for his teams that both finished seventh last season at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Dekalb, Ill.

But he realizes that it is too early for him, or his team, to make any predictions.

"I tell them to try to not get too caught up in the competition," he said.

Lynn enters his second season in the program with an abundance of talent, including new and old athletes who are, what he considers, “very individualized.”

He explained how male athletes such as veterans Hayden Legg and Max Storms can put in up to 110 miles of training per week, while some of the incoming runners start off at about 50 miles.  On the women’s side, no matter the years of experience, athletes can run anywhere from 30 to 70 miles in a given week.

Everyone’s all over the board, Lynn said about the preparation of each of his athletes.

Those athletes include 2011 all-region runners Legg and Bailey Belvis. Legg, a redshirt junior, finished 20th in the men’s 10K race at regionals last November while Belvis, a senior, placed 16th in the women’s 6K race.

Max Storms, a senior captain, has his own key role in leading the younger runners – a record 18 male recruits – and pushing the team to territory it has not ventured in over 11 years: the NCAA Championships

“I’m a senior so I am going to do my best to make sure everyone is doing things right,” he said. “Obviously, I want to go out with a good year.”

Lynn identified Storms as a great role model and someone who has progressed each year he has been in the program. He said Storms goes on 12-mile runs during off days, in addition to the four days of practice when the team is out on the track at 6 a.m.

Storms said that cross country, unlike track and field, is more of a team sport and the group hopes to finish in the top three in the Southeastern Conference race, which will then hopefully lead to Missouri’s first berth since 2000 in the 31-team field at the national championships.

Belvis, along with redshirt junior Kaitie Vanatta, will lead a women’s squad that had its highest placing in six years at the Big 12 Championships last season, finishing fourth among the conference’s 10 teams. 

Belvis plans to improve every week in hopes that each member of the varsity team — the top seven runners — is in peak shape for the SEC Championships on Oct. 26 and the Midwest Regional Championships two weeks later on Nov. 9.

“We’ve come in really healthy, really in shape,” she said. “So, really, the sky’s the limit right now.”

With the move to the SEC this season, Storms and Belvis have higher expectations in what can be considered a less competitive conference when it comes to cross country. Since 2000, seven national champion teams, both men and women, hailed from the Big 12 — Oklahoma State men (2009-10) and Colorado men (2001, 2004, 2006) and women (2000, 2004). No SEC team won the national title in that same span of time, but Arkansas men did win three consecutive titles from 1998-2000.

The men’s team should expect competition from Big 12 carry-over Texas A&M and defending conference champion Arkansas while the women have Vanderbilt, the sixth-ranked team in the nation.

The first meet of the season is Friday at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course on the Missouri campus. The women's 5K is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the men's is directly after at 7 p.m.


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