Ten Raiders are set to complete at the fifty-eighth men's and twenty-ninth women's NAIA track and field national championship this weekend in Edwardsville, Ill.

Ten Southern Oregon track and field athletes are set to complete in the NAIA national championships this weekend in Edwardsville, Ill.

The Raiders won't have much time to enjoy the scenery, either, as nine of those 10 will be in action during Thursday's opening day in search of national championships.

"Thursday day is a really big day for us," SOU head coach Brent Erickson said. "On Thursday we go from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m."

Alex Waroff starts things of at 10 a.m. in the decathlon and enters with the 16th best qualifying score, a 6,130-point performance two weeks ago at the Cascade Conference Championships. The two-day decathlon, which features eight Cascade Conference athletes, continues Friday.

Cameron Kreuz, the SOU 1,500-meter record-holder, starts his trials on Thursday. He owns the sixth-best qualifying time, completing the race in 3 minutes, 48.50 seconds. Kreuz will closing nationals for the Raiders if he reaches Saturday's finals, which start at 3:10 p.m.

"I definitely expect him in the top three," Erickson said of Kreuz. "He's a big game performer."

Antwan Baker, the conference champion in the 100 and 200, runs in the 100 trials on Thursday with the finals set for Saturday at 5 p.m. Baker is qualified 29th at 10.75.

Kreuz qualified in the 800 and Baker in the 200, but both will compete only in the events they have the best chance at winning, says Erickson.

SOU's Stephanie Miller heads to nationals with the sixth-best javelin throw in the nation: 147 feet, 7 inches. Miller was an All-American in 2008 and could have another good showing this year.

"Miller knows what she's doing out there," Erickson said.

Miller will be competing at 4 p.m. Thursday. Teammate Jamie Wells, a pole vaulter, is the only other Raiders to qualify in a field event. Wells qualified 19th with an 11-5 personal record clearance at the conference championship.

Southern Oregon's Chris Paterson takes to the track in the 3,000 steeplechase at 8 p.m. Thursday. He qualified 26th at 9:35.08 and is aiming to qualify for the finals on Saturday afternoon.

Four Raiders qualified to compete in the 10,000, the last event of the opening day (9:20 p.m.).

"10,000 is a really great event for us," Erickson said. "It is the same group got fourth in cross country."

Joe Rath qualified sixth at 31:15.39 and David Laney is sitting at seventh with just three seconds separating their best marks.

"Joe and David are really looking good right now," Erickson said.

Ryan Ghelfi is just behind the other two Raiders at 10th with Ryan Sorenson qualified with the 23rd best time.

"It is a long technical race and they will be able to feed off each other," Erickson said.

SOU will have an opportunity to score some team points in the 10,000 with three athletes ranked in the top 10 and all four ranked in the top 25.

"Certainly we would like to be a top 20 national team," Erickson said.

Overall, five of the Raiders' 10 national qualifiers rank in the top 10 in their respective events.

"I've been coaching for 20 years at the college level and this is just the best group I've had," Erickson said. "It's just a great group. They have been really receptive to what we're doing."

Jason J. Schulman is a freelance sports reporter for the Tidings. To comment on this story, contact sports editor Joe Zavala at jzavala@dailytidings.com.