Men's Cross Country Picked to Win SEC
Wesley Gallagher
Aug. 31, 2015

2014 was a historic season for Ole Miss cross country that involved a substantial amount of rewriting history books.

The men's team claimed the South Region title for the first time in program history to earn the Rebels' first ever NCAA Championship Berth. The Rebels narrowly missed out on claiming the SEC title as well, finishing runner-up by just six points.

The SEC coaches took notice. On Monday for the first time in program history, the Rebels were picked by the coaches around the conference to win the SEC. Ole Miss narrowly edged out Arkansas by garnering seven first place votes to Arkansas' six.

No other team in the SEC returns more than one All-SEC first teamer from last year. Ole Miss returns all three: Wesley Gallagher, Sean Tobin and Robert Domanic. Tobin was named SEC Freshman Runner of the Year as well.

The Rebels also will begin as they ended last season, ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA South Region.

"The expectation is we need to win the conference," cross country coach Ryan Vanhoy said. "If you're second by six points you don't go back and hope to be second again. It won't be easy and of course there are lots of good teams, but they're expecting to compete for the Championship."

The men return more than just the All-SEC selections to help guide this year's squad. Along with Gallagher, Tobin and Domanic, Trevor Gilley and Taylor Caldwell represent the five returning All-Region picks.

"It's not like we gravitate around one leader," Vanhoy said. "We gravitate around our upperclassmen. There's not one clear rock solid-leader. They all share it together. Our depth is better than it's ever been."

The Rebels add newcomers MJ Erb, Craig Engels and Ryan Manahan to the already talented squad. Erb and Engels arrived during the indoor track season last year to help Ole Miss to the best SEC finish in 31 years.

"Now we realize that we belong there," Vanhoy said. "It's an expectation. It's not something we're hoping to get to. That's the minimum. We're there. Now it's about what we do when we get there. It's a shift in expectations on the team and a mindset of what's acceptable here."

Last seasons' trip to the NCAA Championship was hampered by an injury to Tobin during the race. The Rebels still gained the benefit of going to the Championship and knowledge of what it takes to get back there.

"It's always good to be there before and see it, but we have much higher expectations this year," Vanhoy said. "Having been there before we know what it's like, and it gives us some things to correct as we move on. It's definitely a benefit. We have a better idea of what to expect."

The women were selected to finish 10th in the conference by the coaches. Last season, the Rebels ran a team consisting largely of underclassmen while losing Mary Alex England for most of the season. She returns this season as well as a core of experienced runners.

"The women's team has evolved a lot in the last year," Vanhoy said. "We have a lot of people that are around that same level. It helps to have depth in case someone goes down and has to miss a couple weeks. Someone else is there to step up."

Both the men and women open the 2015 campaign in the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic on Saturday, September 5. The women's race kicks off at 9:20 p.m., with the men's race following at 10.

For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field and Cross Country, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissTrack, as well as Facebook and Instagram.


 

 

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