ROCK HILL, S.C. – The Anderson men's cross country squad has been tabbed to finish third in the South Atlantic Conference for the second consecutive season in a vote by the league's coaches, as released by the league office Wednesday morning.
Mars Hill, which has claimed 19 of the last 20 conference championships, is the coaches' favorite to continue its dominance in the league. After being dethroned by Queens for the SAC Championship title two seasons ago, Mars Hill returned to the top spot last year. The Lions posted the top overall finisher in the 2016 SAC Cross Country Championship to go along with four runners in the top 10.
Mars Hill received eight first-place votes and 98 points from the head coaches, as member institutions aren't allowed to vote for their own teams. Queens placed second in the poll with three top bids and 93 points from the panel. The Royals placed three runners in the top 10 at the 2016 SAC Championship to finish second as a team.
Anderson came in at No. 3 in the poll with 80 points, while Lincoln Memorial landed at No. 4 with 70 points. Wingate rounded out the top five in the preseason poll with 68 points after coming in fifth at the 2016 SAC Championship.
Catawba and Lenoir-Rhyne tied for the No. 6 spot as each member institution collected 51 points. Carson-Newman collected 35 points to come in at No. 8, ahead of Coker who posted 24 points. Tusculum landed at No. 10 with 23 points and Newberry wrapped up the poll with 12 points.
Since joining the South Atlantic Conference for the 2010 campaign, the Trojans have finished third on four occasions, including three of the last four seasons, and claimed runner-up status to Mars Hill in 2011.
With a roster short on collegiate experience but laden with talent, first-year AU head coach Kevin Eagle will be looking to challenge the Royals and Lions for the top spot again this season.
Along with 11 freshmen, AU's roster includes senior standout Mason Hazel, who has captured All-Conference honors in each of his three previous seasons, including first-team recognition at each of the last two SAC Championships. He claimed 16th place at the NCAA Southeast regionals two years ago and finished 22nd at Montevallo last season. A native of Summerville, S.C., Hazel has posted six career top-10 finishes.
Sophomore Luke Horne is back for his second season with the Black and Gold after finishing 11th in his collegiate debut at the 2016 USC Upstate Eye Opener and went on to garner SAC All-Freshman Team honors with a 35th-place finish at the SAC Championships. John Drummond, who finished 23rd at the 2016 Upstate Invitational and 54th at the 2016 South Atlantic Conference Championships, is the other returner.
Anderson will get the season underway Friday at the USC Upstate Eye Opener. The women's race is slated to get underway at 6:30 p.m., while the men are scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m.
2017 SAC Preseason Men's Cross Country Coaches' Poll
School (1st Place Votes) Points
1. Mars Hill (8) 98
2. Queens (3) 93
3. Anderson 80
4. Lincoln Memorial 70
5. Wingate 68
6. Catawba 51
8. Carson-Newman 35
9. Coker 24
10. Tusculum 23
11. Newberry 12