Cross country meet helps team evaluate strengths, weaknesses

T.J. Gerlach

With the MIAA Champion-ships coming up, the men’s and women’s cross country teams both competed Oct. 9.

The men traveled to Orlando, Fla. to race in the Disney World Classic. They finished seventh out of 31 teams competing.

“That wasn’t what we wanted,” said Tom Rutledge, men’s head coach. “The University of Florida slipped up on us and so did the University of Miami.”

UF finished first in the meet and UM third.

Senior Paul Koehler finished in sixth place overall with a time of 25:19.09.

The next finisher for Missouri Southern was junior Lucas Plocher, who placed 20th overall with a time of 26:01.62.

Rutledge said the humidity hurt the team the most during the race.

“Paul Koehler was leading at the three-mile mark,” Rutledge said. “I really think the [humidity] finally hit him. The humidity just zapped us toward the end.”

He said both Koehler and Plocher ran good races.

“We’re still not running as a team,” Rutledge said. “The freshmen are still having trouble moving up the ladder.”

He said he feels confident the team can win another MIAA championship, but the runners have to believe in themselves.

The women raced at the Missouri-Illinois Border War held in Edwardsville, Ill.

“We had another very good race in a very large field,” said Patty Vavra, head women’s coach.

Out of 34 teams competing, the Lions placed second overall in the meet. Northern Michigan University won the meet.

“I really feel the team has run well as a team in the past two weeks,” Vavra said. “And that’s a great confidence builder going into the conference championship.”

The Lions faced many of their conference rivals in the race and topped all of them. Central Missouri State University finished four points behind Southern and Pittsburg State University finished in fourth overall.

“We’re going to see quite a match up in the conference championship,” Vavra said.

The Lions’ top finisher was junior Megan Russell, who finished in fifth place with a time of 18:30.46. Behind her was senior Ashley Caffey, who placed ninth overall with a time of 18:39.24.

Vavra said her top three runners are running well, but she would like to see her forth and fifth runners finish closer to the front.

Koehler and Russell were both named MIAA players of the week. This was Russell’s second consecutive week to earn the honor.

Both teams have a week off before heading to Maryville for the MIAA conference championships.