PEORIA, Ill. -- The Bradley men's and women's cross country squads are gearing up for the Missouri Valley Conference Championships Saturday in Normal, Ill. The meet will be hosted by Illinois State at Wiebring Golf Course and begin with the women's 5K at 10:30 a.m. with the men's 8K following at 11:30 a.m.
The pre-championship coaches' poll has the BU women's team tied for third place with Southern Illinois, while the men's squad was picked to finish sixth. Both teams posted their best finish since 2009 at last year's event with the women's team taking third and the men placing seventh in Terre Haute, Ind., last fall.
"On both sides we are excited about the opportunity to continue to improve over the past years' experiences at the MVC Championships," Bradley head coach Marc Burns said of the upcoming weekend.
The women's side is shaping up to be a close meet, with three of the top four teams receiving first-place votes - Illinois State (6), Wichita State (3) and Bradley (1). The Braves received 75 points in the poll to tie with SIU for third, 11 points behind second-place Wichita State and 22 points better than fifth-place Indiana State.
"All we can do is control what we can control and if we do that there's no reason why we couldn't win it," Burns said. "We could land anywhere from first to fourth, that's how close is. But we've got a good game plan laid out and we are going to execute that plan and compete with a lot of heart and wherever the chips fall, they fall."
The Braves have placed in the top three in two of the last four seasons and are looking for their first top-two showing since taking second in 2002.
For the men's team, Burns says the focus is all on progressing.
"The mission on the men's side is to continue to improve," Burns said. "Sixth or better is going to be a positive experience, and fourth or fifth aren't out of the question."
The Braves are ready to go into the meet and show the competition what they can bring to the table.
"We hope to have big performances across the board," Burns said. "It's a fun time of year for us. This meet right now, where our team is at, means the most. We want to continue to show improvement and if we can do that we will keep moving forward."
Following Saturday's conference championships, the Bradley men's and women's cross country teams will have a week off to prepare for the NCAA Midwest Regional, which will be held Friday, Nov. 9 in Springfield, Mo.