AUGUSTA, GA – Fresh off their first Peach Belt Conference Championship in 2016, the Flagler College men's cross country team has been selected as the preseason favorite for 2017 in a poll of the league's head coaches released on Monday. The Saints took in three first-place votes and finished with 43 points, just ahead of second-place Columbus State with 40. Augusta was third with 39 points, one ahead of fourth-place UNC Pembroke. Georgia College, Clayton State, Francis Marion and Lander rounded out the voting.
Flagler stormed their way to their first PBC Championship in 2016, placing all five scoring runners inside the top 20 at the championship meet in Milledgeville. Flagler went on to finish in fourth at the NCAA Southeast Regional, their highest finish in the NCAA era. For 2017, head coach Brian Beil welcomes back five returners from that team along with four newcomers. Among the returners is PBC Freshman of the Year Kray Hubner, who was seventh at the PBC Championship and 18th at the NCAA regional. Also back is junior Crisman Jones, who was named All-Conference after finishing 14th at the PBC.
Columbus State holds seven PBC Championships and are poised to capture their first since 2014. The Cougars return 11 runners from the 2016 squad, but the biggest impact will come from newcomer Tim Asis. Asis won the PBC Championship and was the 2016 PBC Runner of the Year for Young Harris College. YHC discontinued their cross country program following the season and Asis will now run for the Cougars after qualifying for the NCAA national finals as an individual. Also back for CSU are sophomores Wright Calhoun and Austin Kidd, who were the top two Cougar finishers at the 2016 PBC meet.
Augusta has finished in the top four of the last four PBC Championships, including a title in 2013. The Jaguars were third at the 2016 event and were fifth at the NCAA regionals. Returning junior Daniel Broadhead was the first Jaguar across the line in both events. He finished in fourth place at the PBC to earn All-Conference honors and was 10th at the NCAA regional and named All-Region. Senior Dylan Forester was also named All-Conference and All-Region. He was fifth at the PBC and 12th at the NCAAs. Junior Noah Hulett also returns after being named All-Conference with a 13th-place finish at the PBC Championship.
UNC Pembroke was tied for third with Augusta at the 2016 PBC Championships and ran seventh at the NCAA regionals. The Braves won their first conference title in 2015 and look to do so again in 2017. UNCP returns five runners who competed at the 2016 PBC Championship including All-Conference junior Logan Ward, who finished 12th. Junior Jonathan Martin was the third Brave across the line at the NCAA regionals and ran a personal best at the 2016 PBC Championship.
The men's cross country preseason coaches poll is listed below. Teams were given seven points for a first-place vote, six for second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.
2017 Men's Cross Country
Preseason Coaches Poll