Click exits career leading by example

Senior Erin Click finished her career at Southern this season.

Special to the Chart

Senior Erin Click finished her career at Southern this season.

Senior Erin Click wasn’t born with running shoes, but she found her start in track at an early age in West Plains, Mo.

“You’re kind of thrown into it when you’re really young,” Click said.

She started out running sprints and middle distance.

Although she said she never wanted to run cross country because she thought it was too long, she decided to run her senior year of high school.

Colleges started looking at her, and she chose to sport Missouri Southern’s green and gold.

“She’s only ran [distance] four years,” said Patty Vavra, head women’s cross country coach. “The things she’s accomplished in that amount of time I’d say most people wouldn’t be able to accomplish once, and that goes back to her being mentally tough.”

Alison Walker, freshman cross country runner, also practiced alongside Click in high school. She said she’ll miss Click after running a total of five years with her.

“She’s definitely mentally strong,” Walker said. “She’s always been a tough cookie going from running the 200-meter (in high school) to the 3-K.”

Click said the hardest part of running distance races is staying mentally focused.

“Probably the hardest part is making yourself stay focused through workouts and races,” she said. “You can’t stop and start thinking too much at all about how much it hurts or that you want to slow down.”

She said running distance is pretty much a mind game.

Vavra said it is also evident that Click is a great competitor with a giant heart.

“Erin is a fierce competitor, though you’d never know it by talking to her,” she said. “She’s very quiet and very humble, but a fierce competitor.”

Junior teammate Ashley Hendrix agreed, She said Click is competitive without being cocky.

“Erin knows what she can run, and if everybody can keep up then so be it,” Hendrix said.

Also, Vavra and Jamie Burnham, assistant head women’s cross country coach, both agreed Click clearly leads by example.

One of the ways she does that is through her work ethic.

“Undoubtedly, she’s an extremely hard worker,” Vavra said. “She has never questioned, has always gave 100 percent work every day, I’ve never heard her complain. Sometimes with an injury involved, I knew there was pain, but I would never hear about it.”

Hendrix said Click is also encouraging to her teammates.

“It’s my day-to-day goal to be encouraging,” Click said. “Everyone has times when they’re down about workouts or races, and I try to be that person that encourages them.”

Ã¥Hendrix said Click is also a good motivator and knows what to say and when to say it.

“It’s funny because Erin is a person of little words because she didn’t waste words on something stupid or mouthy but was really knowledgeable,” she said.

Hendrix and Walker agreed Click leaves a positive impact on her teammates.

“One thing about Erin is she’s constantly smiling and laughing, and you hardly ever see her down,” Hendrix said. “She makes you a happier person just being around her.”

Click said she will miss her teammates the most.

“Seeing them everyday and being a part of something is kind of a way of life,” she said.

Vavra said one of the things that always impressed her was Click seemed to run best when she ran as a team.

“I think the greatest motivating factor, more than her individual success has been to contribute to her team’s success,” she said.

Vavra said one of the reasons the team made it to nationals Click’s sophomore year is because Click came off a foot injury and filled the No. 5 spot for the Lions at regionals. This was the first time the team qualified as a group for nationals.

There were other times in Click’s career that stuck out to Vavra, including Click being the MIAA indoor champion in the 1,500-meter, outdoor champion in the mile, two time all conference in cross country and also claiming all-regional in cross country.

“Last year at indoor conference she led from the start of the mile,” Vavra said with a smile. “Several girls tried to pass her at the end, and she wouldn’t let them.”

Click will graduate this month, after three and a half years at Southern.

Click believes the team will do well.

“Everyone, especially freshman, go through times when they want to quit because they think it’s too hard for them, but basically, stick with it,” she said.

To the returners, Click leads by example once again as she asks them to be encouraging and good leaders.

“The season turns out a lot easier if they are really team-oriented and supportive,” she said.