Men and women’s cross country win MIAA


Cross country cross the finish line first

Matt Barney, Sports Writer

Missouri Southern Cross Country is back on top again after both men’s and women’s teams turned in dominating performances at the MIAA conference meet Nov. 8 in Bolivar. The women’s team finished with three runners in the top eight, led by sophomore Emily Harris, who finished fourth. This is the team’s fourth straight team win this season and the Lions have now won the conference meet two of the last three years.

The men’s team earned its third straight team victory, with Lions finishing in the top three spots, led by overall winner Eric Schott, who helped bring home their first MIAA title since 2009.

“Every conference win is what we strive for,” said head coach Patty Vavra. “We’ve worked long and hard for it this year and with this conference as strong as it is, every conference win is special. It was really inspiring to me to see them compete with that much character and to go out and get the job done.”

The win did not come without a touch of adversity for the team as senior leader Kaitlyn Belisle sprained an ankle two days prior to the meet; her status was up in the air until the morning of the race when it was finally determined she would run. Belisle proceeded to turn in one of the grittiest performances in recent memory as she fought through the pain to finish 11th.

“It was kind of touch and go whether she’d be able to run or not, but she’s a tough young lady who put in a great effort in not the best circumstance,” said Vavra. “Her effort was indicative of the whole team; the rest of the team knew they had to step up.”

“I really just blocked it out and focused on the race,” Belisle said. “I couldn’t use my ankle as an excuse not to try my best.”

The team met the night before the race and weighed their options.

“When we thought Kaitlyn was not going to be able to run we were all very nervous,” said junior Kindra Emberton. “The night before, we pulled together and decided, even if Kaitlyn could or could not run, we would have to race with our hearts, not with our legs! I feel we did an amazing job of that. We all pushed each other to accomplish what we had trained so hard for.”

“We had one of our top girls hurt and I was nervous,” said senior Dora Eastin. “I run for different reasons, but this race was for her and I had a strong finish for her.”

Meanwhile, Eric Schott continued to run roughshod over the MIAA as he captured his fourth individual title of the season. He has yet to be beat by a Division II opponent this year. Schott wasn’t alone as the Lions put together a strong team performance with sophomore Tyler Rush finishing in second place 10 seconds ahead of senior Andrew Webster, who captured third.

“Going into the race our guys were very confident, Andrew Webster and Tyler rush mentioned to me, ‘Coach were going 1, 2, 3 this weekend,’ before I even had to bring it up,’” said head coach Bryan Schiding. “When push came to shove, Colton Wooldridge stepped up and ran a fantastic race, really ran a gutsy race, Adrian Todd ran a really tough race, and throughout the race it was conceivable that we may have swept the top five.”

The Lions now turn their attention to the all-important NCAA Division II Central Region Championship Nov. 22 in Wayne, Neb., where both teams must finish in the top four in order to move on to the national meet.

“I expect our guys to be running right up there with the championship team, if not be the championship team,” said Schiding. “Eric Schott is champing at the bit to run against different programs that we haven’t seen.”

“It’s a bold prediction, but we think if we perform like we did today, we can compete with Augustana, who’s No. 1 in the region,” said Andrew Webster. “We’re on a roll, and we want to keep it going.”

For the women, their winning streak and their season could be on the line.

“I think that regionals will be a challenge,” said sophomore Emily Harris. “We will have some pressure, but our team has a lot of depth and I think great things will come. As for the streak … whether it’s first or fourth, we have one goal: make it to the national meet.”