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Richmond, KY – The Eastern Kentucky Colonels men’s Cross Country team was picked #1 in the first poll released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

The Colonels are positioned ahead of such regional rivals as Virginia (No. 2), Louisville (No. 3), Furman (No. 4), N.C. State (No. 5), Virginia Tech (No. 6), North Carolina (No. 7), Duke (No. 8) and Kentucky (No. 10).

The Colonels return all seven of their top runners from that squad, including seniors Jaime Escriche (2015 All-American), Amos Kosgey (2015 NCAA All-Southeast Region performer), Ambrose Maritim (2016 regional qualifier in the 5,000 meters – 14:09) and Luis Luna (2016 regional qualifier in the 5,000 meters – 14:03), juniors Jakob Dybdal Abrahamsen (2016 second team All-American in the 3,000-meter steeplechase – 8:34), Jamaine Coleman (2016 regional qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:55) and Sergio Mena (2015 first team All-OVC performer in cross country) and sophomore Erick Rotich (2015 OVC Cross Country Runner of the year and 2016 regional qualifier in the 5,000 meters – 14:05).

The Colonels went on to finish 17th at the NCAA Championships last fall, the second-highest national finish in program history. EKU is one of only 10 schools to qualify for the NCAA Championships each of the last five years, along with BYU, Colorado, Iona, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Syracuse, Texas and Tulsa.

EKU has only won the NCAA Southeast Region once, in 2013. The Colonels finished as region runner-up in 2011 and 2012.

The EKU women were also featured in the USTFCCCA Southeast Region rankings, coming in at No. 9.

The women’s team finished fifth at last year’s regional meet – its highest finish in well over a decade; however, the Colonels lost three of their top five runners in Julie Mathisen, Ashley Svec and Anna Reddin.

EKU does return its top runner in sophomore Charlotte Imer, as well as senior Ann Tum, a two-time first team All-OVC performer. Senior Madison Zeitz (sixth on the team, 81st overall at 2015 NCAA Southeast Regional), juniors Ciara Scott (2016 OVC silver medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase) and Haley Yost (fifth in the mile at 2016 OVC Indoor Championships) and sophomore Meggan Grams (fourth in the mile at the 2016 OVC Indoor Championships) are expected to step into more prominent roles this fall.

The Colonels are ranked just behind Kentucky (No. 7) and Louisville (No. 8) and just ahead of the likes of Clemson (No. 11), Duke (No. 12) and North Carolina (No. 13). N.C. State is the favorite to win the Southeast on the women’s side.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams open the season this Friday, September 2, at Morehead State’s Eagle Opener.