The Valparaiso men's cross country team looks to make a move into the top half of the league Saturday at the Mid-Continent Conference Cross Country Championship meet in Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Crusaders, who have taken sixth place at the conference meet each of the last two seasons, have recorded three top-10 finishes among their four meets this year. The Brown and Gold kicked off the season with a third-place finish at its own Crusader Invitational. Valpo acquitted itself well against fellow Indiana schools, coming home eighth out of 25 squads at the Indiana Intercollegiates. Most recently, the Crusaders ran to a runner-up finish at the Evansville Invitational.
Leading the Crusaders all year long has been Chris Honig (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard South). Honig, who transferred to Valpo from Indiana, has registered two top-five finishes this season. He kicked off his Crusader career with a fifth-place finish at the Crusader Invitational, and just two weeks ago came in third at the Evansville Invitational with a season-best time of 25:27.05 over the eight-kilometer course. Honig's time is the seventh-fastest 8K in the Mid-Con this year.
Behind Honig are a group of Crusaders, any of whom can step up on any given day to be the number-two runner. Jim Turchyn (Batesville, Ind./Batesville) has been the most consistent runner, finishing among Valpo's top five in each of the season's four meets. He was the second finisher for the Crusaders at the Notre Dame Invitational, and posted a season-best eighth-place finish last time out at the Evansville Invitational, with a time of 25:57.51. Michael Brouch (Aurora, Ill./Marmion Academy) has been Valpo's number-two finisher twice this season. He came home 13th at the Crusader Invitational, covering the 6K course in 20:06, and also was the second-best Crusader at the Indiana Intercollegiates.
Leandro Schultz (Valleyview, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights) has been steadily improving over the course of the season, and came home seventh at the Evansville Invitational with a time of 25:57.10. Other threats to finish among Valpo's top-five include Jordan Stanfill (Goshen, Ind./Goshen), Adriano Schultz (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights), Rich Krupar III (Elyria, Ohio/Midview) and Josh Parker (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park).
Southern Utah is the favorite to re-capture the conference championship in 2006 after losing it by just four points last year. The Thunderbirds boast the five best 8K times in the Mid-Con this season. Oakland will be running in defense of last year's title, while IUPUI has two of the top nine 8K times this year.
Valparaiso's schedule was put together with the goal of having everybody peaking at the Mid-Con Championship. With nearly every runner on the squad posting their season-best 8K time at the Evansville Invitational, the Crusaders seem to be peaking at just the right time. If Honig can continue to lead Valpo as he has all season, and other runners behind him improve upon their season-best times, the Brown and Gold has a legitimate shot at a top-four finish.