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Choctaws picked to finish towards top in GSC cross country

By Datti Jinkiri

The Gulf South Conference (GSC) announced its men’s and women’s cross country preseason rankings last month. The Lady Choctaws, who picked up one first-place vote, are projected to finish in second. The Choctaws, who accumulated two first-place votes, are picked to finish in third.

Women

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The Lady Choctaws had a fantastic 2021 season, which was capped by a twenty-fourth place finish at the NCAA Championship for the first time in school history. They finished in second at the GSC Championship and third in the NCAA South Regional to get to that point. The team finished inside the top-three in five races last season.

Three of the their four All-GSC and All-South Region honorees from last season will return in 2022, as well. Jazmin Hernandez, Josie Whipp and Emily Berry will each be expected to anchor the team this season.

Hernandez was the Lady Choctaws’ best finisher in all three postseason races. The redshirt junior finished in third at the GSC Championship (17:35.58) and sixth at the NCAA South Regional (22:27.17). She is a two-time All-GSC honoree and will be one of the favorites to be the conference’s individual champion this season.

Whipp, a sophomore, ran the fastest 5K of her career at the GSC Championship last season. Her time of 18:02.28 helped her grab eighth place and First Team All-GSC honors. She was also the second-fastest Lady Choctaw at the NCAA South Regional, finishing the race in fourteenth place.

Berry, who is also a sophomore, grabbed Second Team All-GSC honors with a twentieth-place finish at the GSC Championship (18:58.92). She also played a big part in the Lady Choctaws’ third-place finish at the NCAA South Regional, as her 6K time of 23:22.40 helped her grab twenty-sixth place.

Men

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The Choctaws also had a historic season in 2021. They finished in third at both the GSC Championship and NCAA South Regional, thus advancing for the first time ever to the NCAA Championship. They finished in twenty-third at the NCAA Championship and ensured that both Mississippi College teams finished in the top-twenty-five in the country. Despite the graduation of decorated runner Evan Del Rio, the Choctaws will return five key runners who earned postseason honors last season.

Senior Gabe Poulin earned a First Team All-GSC and an All-South Region selection last season. He finished in fourth at the GSC Championship (24:27.38) and twenty-first at the NCAA South Regional (32:42.05). He has had a storied career in Clinton, as he has been named a three-time all-conference selection and a two-time all-region honoree.

Christian Balcer capped off his freshman season with a Second Team All-GSC selection and an All-South Region selection. He was named GSC Freshman of the Week twice in 2021.

Cole Benoit grabbed a Second Team All-GSC selection last season with a twelfth-place finish at the conference championship. His time of 24:50.42 was the fastest 6K time of his career.

Hunter Kurz was the Choctaws’ fastest runner at the NCAA South Regional. He finished in ninth with a time of 32:22.78, thus earning himself All-South Region honors. He was named GSC Runner of the Week once last season.

 

Season Openers
The Choctaws and Lady Choctaws will be looking to build on their successes from last season. Both teams will race in six regular season events before heading to Montevallo, Alabama, for the GSC Cross Country Championships.


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