Cross country teams compete for championship titles


Kenneth Armant | Chart File

Senior Kelly Jo Roberts ran during last years Southern Stampede on Sept. 21, 2013. The Lions finished in third place on their home course, the highest team finish of the year for the team. Roberts came in 53rd with a time of 19:32.44.

The Missouri Southern Lions cross country teams are geared up to take on all comers tomorrow as they compete for a conference title on the course at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, where each team claimed a first place finish on Oct.14.

Both men’s and women’s teams should be considered favorites to win as the men enter Saturday’s race with a two-meet win streak, while the women’s squad has earned the victory in their last three contests.  

“Success breeds success,” said men’s head coach Bryan Schiding. “I feel that it will have a positive impact on the team feeling confident going in, but we also understand that anything can happen at a conference meet.  We will run with a plan, and stick to it.”

The Lions enter Saturday’s race with a chip on their shoulder after last year’s conference tournament, when they were narrowly defeated 56 to 57, a total of 12 seconds, by Central Missouri for the 2013 MIAA Cross Country Men’s Team Title in one of the closest finishes in recent history.

“We’ve felt we should already have one, if not two, conference titles and just haven’t put things together on the right day,” said senior Eric Schott. “The mindset really isn’t much different for me this year. I’m just trying to treat it as a normal week of training, not changing anything in my daily routine, and not thinking of it as anything special. We just need to go into the race with the mindset we have had all year and if we run to our ability, we should walk out as champions on Saturday.”

Schott has turned in one of the most dominant seasons ever for a Lions cross country athlete up to this point.

The Cape Girardeau native won his fourth MIAA Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week honor Oct. 28 after he helped his team to victory in the Jackling Jocks Invitational on Oct. 25.

Schott has won the award each week he has competed this season and has yet to be defeated by a Division II runner this year.

“It’s great. The season has gone just about as perfect as it could go so far,” he said. “I’m just hoping I can keep it going the next five weeks.”

The conference tournament comes at a time for each team when they are running just as well as they possibly can, and is an opportunity to achieve a goal they set for themselves back in August.

 “Our goal, and everything these young ladies have worked for all season comes down to the next few weeks of championship meets,” said women’s head coach Patty Vavra.  “This team understands the opportunity they have to reach that goal and they are anxiously awaiting the race on Saturday. They have done all of the training and put in all of the work; now it’s time to reap the rewards of those many months of training.”

The success each team has had up to this point puts a target directly on their backs and adds a certain amount of pressure that they have started to feel.

“I think there is a good amount of pressure on the team, but we have been performing well,” said senior Dora Eastin. “I believe as long as we take care of ourselves, have a positive attitude, and remain confident, we will race well.”

“There is a lot of pressure, but we’re trying to keep our minds in the right places. All we have to do is run like we have been and we should be all right,” said senior Andrew Webster. “We can’t underestimate anybody, but at the same time our confidence is high going in.”

For many of the key members of both teams, Saturday’s high-stakes contest will be the last conference tournament they will race in. Such is the case for seniors Colton Wooldridge and Adrian Todd, who will come together for the last few races of their college career starting tomorrow.

“I have added incentive to get the win because this is my last chance to win the cross country conference meet before I graduate,” said Wooldridge. “We’ve been capable of it the past couple of years and now we just have to do it.”

“There’s some pressure but that’s just part of being a team that has a chance to take the championship title. We know what we need to do, we will go out and do it,” said Todd.