PITTSBURGH, PA - The Florida Southern men's cross country team will compete in the NCAA Division II National Championships on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Bob O'Conner Golf Course at Schenley Park with the men's 10K race beginning at 11 a.m. The Moccasins earned the trip with a third-place finish at the NCAA South Regional meet held Nov. 17 at Lakeland's Holloway Park and Nature Preserve.
First-year Florida Southern head coach Matt Levassiur's squad for nationals will feature one senior, one junior, four sophomores, and one freshman.
"Our team is young," says Levassiur. "Giving these young runners a chance to get some nationals experience will help us going forward."
FSC will be led by super-sophomore Mason Jones who is coming off a fifth-place finish at the regional. Jones has led the Moccasins in each of the seven meets this season and will be gunning to become the Moccasins' first All-America men's cross country runner. To do so, Jones will need to finish in the top 40 in the 10K race. Fellow sophomore Josh Wagner took 15th at the regionals and joined Jones on the USTFCCCA All-South Region Team.
Senior Dean McGregor and junior Warran Grajalez are the only athletes for the Moccasins that have national championship experience as both runners competed in the 2016 event. McGregor placed 123rd with a 32:40.8 time while Grajalez came in 222nd with a 34:47.6 mark. McGregor and Grajalez were named to the All-Sunshine State Conference team along with Jones and Wagner.
"Although we'll take aim at everyone in the field," says Levassiur, "we'd love to chase down the teams that beat us at Regionals – Embry-Riddle and Lee.
This is Florida Southern's 10th trip to the NCAA Nationals in the last 15 seasons. FSC's best showing came in 2005 as Eric Walker led Coach Buck Dawson's Moccasins to a 13th place finish with a school national record 324 points. Walker returned in 2006 to place 55th – the highest finish for any Moccasin individual – while the team took 20th place. In the Moccasins' last appearance in 2016, the squad finished in 26th place behind a 61st place showing by Festus Kemboi.
For Levassiur, the trip to Pittsburgh will be extra special as the first-year Moccasin coach competed at nearby Slippery Rock University in the 2001 NCAA Division II Nationals. The then-sophomore turned in a time of 32:17.6 to finish 10th nationally for Adams State. After placing 12th in 2002, Levassiur finished in eighth place in helping lead Adams State to the 2003 national title.
"This trip feels like a continuation of a journey that started many miles ago," says Levassiur.
The cross country championship is part of the NCAA Division II Fall Festival, an Olympic-style event in which five national titles will be decided in the Steel City from Nov. 27-Dec. 1. More than 900 qualifying student-athletes will represent their schools by competing for national championships in men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer, women's field hockey and women's volleyball.
NCAA cross country fans can watch the live stream of the NCAA cross country championships as FloTrack Pro subscribers for a monthly price of $29.99 or an annual price of $149.99. The subscription plan will include unlimited access to all FloTrack live broadcasts, video-on-demand from all events, FloTrack Originals, documentaries, technique videos and more. Since there is a registration process, it is recommended that you register early to ensure you do not miss any of the action.