The Florida Southern men's cross country team will be looking to defend its league title and capture the program's 18th Sunshine State Conference Championship at the 2018 SSC Meet this Saturday at 7:45 a.m. on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL.
"The SSC championship should be an exciting race," says first-year Moccasin head coach Matt Levassiur.
The most familiar foe for the Moccasins in this year's field will be the ERAU Eagles, who are competing in just their second SSC championship and finishing third last season. The two schools have competed in the same meets on three occasions this season with Embry-Riddle getting the best of Florida Southern in each event.
"Embry-Riddle has been the class of the field this year," says Levassiur. " Their progress has undoubtedly inspired us to train and race harder this year."
Florida Southern will also have to contend with Saint Leo which had won three straight SSC titles before being dethroned by the Moccasins last season.
Embry-Riddle received votes in the last USTFCCCA national poll and is ranked third in the South Region Poll. Saint Leo is fifrth regionally followed by Florida Southern (6th), Tampa (8th), and Lynn (9th).
"Our boys hope to continue their progress as we attempt to chase down both Saint Leo and Embry-Riddle," says Levassiur. As a group, the returning Moccasins runners from 2017 have shaved 45 seconds off of their best times from a year ago.
Florida Southern will be led by sophomore Mason Jones who has led the Moccasins in each of the team's five meets this season and has been the top Division II finisher in all but one meet. The Titusville, FL native has placed in the top six in every meet in 2018 and has won four SSC Runner of the Week honors this season. Jones posted a personal best time of 24.36 at the Queens City Invitational on Sept. 28 which was the third fastest 8K in program history.
Fellow sophomore Josh Wagner has finished in the top three for the Moccasins in each race this season. He also posted his best 8K time at the Queens City Invitational, recording a 25.28 mark.
Close behind are junior Warran Grajalez, senior Dean McGregor, and freshman Michael Balseca. Grazalez is a third Moccasin that registered a personal best time at the Queens City meet, turning in a 25.28 while McGregor had his season-best time of 25.43 at the same event. Balseca had his best outing at the USC-Beaufort Sand Shark Invitational on Oct. 18 with a 27:18.7 time.
"Our squad is also excited about the future, and with only two upperclassmen in our top seven, we hope that this is a nucleus that will sustain the program for years to come," says Levassiur.
In addition to Florida Southern's 17 Sunshine State Conference titles (including 14 in a row from 1997 to 2010), the Moccasins have finished as runners-up on seven occasions. FSC has either won or placed second in 22 of the last 23 seasons. Florida Tech is second in the league with six team titles. Florida Southern has also produced 13 individual champions, the last being Ben Martucci in 2010.
The Embry-Riddle Cross Country Course will be the site of the SSC Championship meet with Rollins College serving as the host instiutio. Final results will be posted following the race.