Men earn spot in national meet, women place fifth in regionals

With a bang, the men´s cross country race begins, and Southern moves up to take a spot.

With a bang, the men´s cross country race begins, and Southern moves up to take a spot.

“I feel they finally ran a race,” said Tom Rutledge, head men’s cross country coach.

The men’s team placed third in the NCAA Division II South Central Regional Cross Country meet held on Nov. 6 at Missouri Southern’s cross country course. The Lions’ third-place finish qualifies them for the national meet

Abilene Christian University won first place with a perfect score of 15, having runners finish first through fifth.

“They just have too much power and too much speed,” Rutledge said.

He said ABU is ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Central Missouri Southern State University finished in second place.

Southern’s Craig Rhoads, senior, finished in sixth with a time of 31:53.00. Paul Koehler, senior, finished behind Rhoads with a time of 32:03.10.

Lucas Plocher, junior, finished 23rd overall in 33:02.20.

Rutledge said the men had to beat some teams who had already beaten them.

“I knew we had a good one-two punch with Craig Rhoads and Paul Koehler,” he said.

Rhoads said the team’s performance was a big improvement over its performance at the conference meet.

“Everybody thought that we couldn’t do it [qualify for nationals],” he said. “It proves if we can run as a team we can prove to everybody what we can do.”

Both Rutledge and Rhoads said the younger men on the team really stepped up.

“They grew up a lot in two weeks,” Rutledge said. “Having the freshmen step up like they did is good to see.”

“I’m proud of all the younger guys,” Rhoads said. “They really stepped up. They really came through for me and Paul.”

The Lions will compete for the national title Nov. 20 in Evansville, Ind.

“We’re still dancing,” Rutledge said. “Our season’s not over.”

The women’s cross country team also competed in the regional meet. The women finished fifth overall.

Individually, Megan Russell finished fifth overall with a time of 22:09.10. Her top-five finish qualified her for the national meet Nov. 20.

Patty Vavra, head women’s cross country coach, said she is excited for Russell. She said she was somewhat disappointed in the rest of the team.

“There was a point in the season where we really felt like we were moving in the right direction right before the conference meet,” Vavra said.

She said an injury to a key runner depleted some of the team’s opportunities for the season.

“All-in-all, we ran as strong as we could,” Vavra said. “I felt like as we look back at the season our top three people, in Megan Russell, Ashley Caffey, Erin Click, they had an outstanding year. Unfortunately, like happens from time to time, an injury at the wrong time to a key person can make a big difference to how the team finishes.”

Caffey was Southern’s second runner in 12th overall with a time of 22:52.40. Click finished right behind Caffey in 13th with a time of 22:52.70.

“I think we ran well together as a team,” Click said.

Vavra said she knows Russell will represent Southern well at the national meet.

“She’s had a great year and deserves to go,” Vavra said. “I would have really liked to see the other senior, Ashley Caffey, make it to the meet.”

She also said Click has had a great year and deserved to go to the national meet.

“I think all of our hard work has paid off,” Click said.

Vavra said this has been somewhat of a “bittersweet” season for the women.

“And definitely you can’t fault this group of young ladies for the effort they’ve put forth all year,” Vavra said. “They’re very disappointed, but we’ll pick ourselves up and move forward into the indoor season.”