Joplin, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern men's and women's cross country teams are set to host the 24th annual Southern Stampede tomorrow morning at the Missouri Southern cross country course.
This year's event, sponsored by First to the Finish, will feature over 1,950 runners from 56 high schools and 46 colleges and universities. The event has grown into one of the biggest cross country races in the entire country.
An event that started in 1990 with only 39 runners, the Stampede has grown into a race with over 2,000 runners. The race is a huge impact to both the city of Joplin and the Missouri Southern State cross country program.
MSSU men's track and field and cross country coach Tom Rutledge attributes much of the success to the course itself.
"It is strictly cross country, it is well marked, it's laned, it's mowed, it's rolled and it is a good spectator sport where fans can get to where you can see the runners through open fields", he said. "It's also coach accessible where coaches can see their athletes a lot and that is how we designed it to service coaches and spectators."
On the men's side, the Lions come into the meet healthy and ready to move up from their 26th ranking in the country. Expected to be in the field are a few teams who are currently ranked nationally including East Central University (16), Eastern New Mexico (14), and Alabama Huntsville (29).
On the women's side, the Lions come into the meet ranked 25th nationally. Two other ranked teams, Midwestern State (11) and Pittsburg State (12) will also join Southern at the meet.
There will be eight races tomorrow with the first event, the small college/junior college women's 5k beginning at 8 am. The university women's 5k is at 8:30, while the small college/juco men's 8k is at 9 am. The men's university 8k begins at 9:45 am, while the four high school races are set to start beginning at 10:30 am.
Complete results will be on www.mssulions.com.