New boss arrives from Olivet Nazarene after successful 6-year stint
To find its next men’s cross country coach, St. Xavier University turned to one of its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference rivals.
Kyle Rago, who spent the past six seasons at Olivet Nazarene as a recruiting coordinator for both cross country and track, officially succeeded Ed McAllister as Cougars boss in each sport this past Monday. While in Bourbonnais Rago helped the Tigers’ overall roster numbers grow from 60 to more than 140.
He also served as the strength and conditioning coordinator for all distance athletes. With Rago playing a pivotal role in their development Olivet runners produced several strong seasons.
The Tigers’ women’s cross country squad finished among the top six in NAIA each of the last three years, the men’s team wound up sixth last fall, and between them the two programs have claimed seven CCAC titles since 2008. Track and field successes include five conference championships apiece for the men’s and women’s teams since 2009.
During Rago’s tenure Olivet has had 32 NAIA All-Americans and 121 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athletes.
Being a proven commodity with a highly respected program was what made Rago an intriguing coaching candidate to SXU athletics director Bob Hallberg.
“We are thrilled to bring in a coach of Kyle’s caliber,” Hallberg said. “He comes in with outstanding credentials. Kyle also has great ties within the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and we are looking forward to having him continue the great tradition of cross country and track and field success that has been established here at SXU.”
Rago was a four-time NAIA national qualifier as a middle-distance runner while a student at Olivet and established six school records during his time there. He was a team captain as a junior and senior for both the men’s cross country and track squads.
“I am very excited to lead the St Xavier University men’s cross country [and] track and field programs,” said Rago, a 2007 Olivet graduate with a degree in social science. “I cannot thank the search committee enough for this opportunity.
“I look forward to building on the recent success this program has had and leading it to even greater success. I am excited to become a member of the SXU community.”
Rago resides in Bourbonnais with his wife, Tara, and their two children, Hope and Koen.
Rebeka Ferguson, a junior transfer from Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne, has signed a letter of intent to continue both her academic and athletic careers at SXU as a member of the Cougars softball program.
The Chatham, Ill., native also played one year at Heartland Community College in Normal before spending her sophomore season with the Mastodons in Fort Wayne. Ferguson, a shortstop, had a standout prep career at Chatham-Glenwood High School.
Ferguson was named the 2011 Central State Eight Softball Player of the Year by the State Journal-Register after hitting .455 with four homers and 42 RBI. At Heartland she was named the 2013 Mid-West Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and chosen as a member of the all-region first team after hitting .441 with a .574 slugging percentage and .507 on-base percentage. Ferguson scored 77 runs, drove in 59 and stole 29 bases.
She hit .250 for IPFW this past spring with 25 hits, including eight doubles. Ferguson also totaled 158 putouts while posting a .961 fielding percentage for the Mastodons.
“Beka is a proven difference-maker at the collegiate level,” SXU coach Myra Minuskin said. “She has the ability, both offensively and defensively, to help us compete among the elite teams in the nation.”
While players flocked to campus this past Monday for the start of preseason camp, the Cougars learned they achieved a No. 16 national ranking in the NAIA Football Coaches Preseason Top 25 poll and are projected to take second in the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League behind only 2013 NAIA champion Grand View (Iowa) University.
The NAIA preseason poll was released by the national office Monday afternoon, while the MSFA released its preseason projections earlier this month. SXU had 31 points and one first-place vote in the conference poll, while Grand View had 35 points and five first-place votes.
“It is always nice to see your team ranked among the NAIA’s best in the polls, but to our program being No. 16 is nowhere near good enough,” Cougars coach Mike Feminis said. “Our players and coaches expect to compete for a national championship every single season and missing the postseason last season was completely unacceptable.
“We may have one of the toughest schedules in the NAIA this fall, but that is exactly what we want because you have to beat the best to be the best. Our guys are hungry to get back out on the field and prove that they are one of the elite teams in the nation.”
SXU kicks off the 2014 season on the road against Marian University on Sept 6. The Cougars play their first home game one week later as NCAA Division II University of Indianapolis visits Bruce R. Deaton Field for a 6 p.m. kickoff.