Lions still lead the pack


Mike Gullett | Contributor

Seniors (left to right) Adrian Todd, Eric Schott and Andrew Webster led the Lions from the starting line at the Southern Stampede on Sept. 20, 2014. They finished 21st, first and eighth respectively.

The Missouri Southern Lions women’s cross country teams took home a first place finish in the 26th annual Chile Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., on Oct. 4, while the men finished third.

This is the second straight meet where the men’s team finished third, while the woman improved from their fourth-place finish in the Southern Stampede to capture the title on Saturday in the race hosted by the University of Arkansas.

“It was a great win, with many of our athletes running personal bests for the season,” said head coach Patty Vavra.  “It was particularly impressive because we were without Kindra Emberton and Kaitlyn Belisle, two of our top runners. In their absence, our athletes stepped up and got the win in a quality meet.”

Sophomore Emily Harris turned in the best time of any Lion runner for the second straight race, finishing fifth out of all non-Division I runners.

“It’s always nice to get a win; it just shows the strength of the team without everyone running,” said assistant coach Jamie Burnham. “When we get everyone back, then we can be that much better.”

The two senior athletes were forced to sit out the race due to injuries. Despite their absence, three runners finished in the top 11.

“Everyone was pretty surprised by the win with having Kindra and I not racing,” said Belisle. “They really stepped up their game and almost everyone had a PR [personal record] and ran close together. Seeing that improvement and the pack getting stronger in only the second race of the season is exciting.”

To illustrate the level of amazement throughout the team, several members failed to realize the success of the afternoon immediately. For one runner, the news came as quite a shock.

“It was surprising, but great,” said senior Dora Eastin. “I think because of where we all placed individually, we didn’t think we were close, but my dad called me and said that we won, and at first I didn’t believe him.”

The third place finish for the men’s team gives them something to be pleased with and also room to improve.

“I think we did well; we are still coming together as a team,” said senior Adrian Todd. “This week might not have been what we were wanting, but each race is a learning experience. We will just keep getting better.”

The Lions are back in action tomorrow for the Southwest Baptist Invitational in Bolivar, Mo.

“It will be a great opportunity to review the course that the MIAA meet will be hosted on,” said Vavra. That meet takes place Nov. 8.