LAKELAND, FL - The Moccasin men's cross country team will be running for its third regional crown in the last six seasons this Saturday as Florida Southern joins forces with Central Florida's Polk County Sports Marketing to host the NCAA Division II South Region Cross Country Championship here at the Holloway Park and Nature Preserve. This is the second consecutive year the event has been held in Lakeland.
Twenty-four other schools will join Florida Southern in the men's 10K race at 7:30 a.m. with the women's 6K race – featuring the Mocs and 21 other programs – following at 8:45 a.m. Admission is free and the public is invited.
Florida Southern has won three previous regional titles. The first came in 2007 and the last two coming in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. First-year head coach Matt Levassiur will look to improve FSC over last year's fourth-place finish and secure a spot in the NCAA National Championship meet on Dec. 1 in Pittsburgh, PA. The Moccasins have finished in the top three regionally in 11 of the last 14 seasons.
The top three teams from each regional will earn a berth to nationals along with 10 at-large teams. In addition, the top two individuals who are not part of a qualifying team will automatically advance to the championship finals while all individuals who finish in the top five at regionals not on a qualifying team will move on. There are also eight individual at-large bids.
As they have all season, the Moccasins will be led by sophomore Mason Jones who has been the FSC finisher in each of the six races this season. Fellow sophomore Josh Wagner and senior Dean McGregor will also look to lead the Moccasins' effort. The trio was recently named to the All-Sunshine State Conference first-team while sophomore Mitchell Kozik was a second-team All-SSC selection. Junior Warran Grajalez, freshman Michael Balseca, and sophomore Brian Martin round out the Moccasin contingent.
Jones finished 16th at last year's regional with a time of 33:49.77 while Wagner came in 48th with a 34:58.66 time. This will be the fourth regional meet for McGregor who was 35th last season with a 34:40.21 time, but has finished 13th (33:41.12 in 2015) and 15th (32:26.8 in 2016) in his career.
Florida Southern is coming off a runner-up finish at the Sunshine State Conference Championship with Jones taking fourth place while Wagner and McGregor placed sixth and 13th, respectively. Kozik turned in a 35:38.63 last season to take 64th place.
Comprising the regional field will be defending regional champion, Lee (TN), the South Region's top-ranked team in the latest USTFCCCA poll released Nov. 6, #2 Embry-Riddle, #3 Mississippi College, #4 Alabama-Huntsville, #5 Florida Southern, #6 Saint Leo, #7 Tampa, #8 Montevallo, #9 Union (TN), and #10 Lynn. Also competing will be Albany State, Benedict, Central State, Christian Brothers, Florida Tech, LeMoyne-Owen, Morehouse, Nova Southeastern, Palm Beach Atlantic, Puerto Rico-Baymon, Spring Hill, Valdosta State, West Alabama, West Florida, and West Georgia.