MSSU cross country teams make history

MSSU cross country teams make history

MSSU cross country teams make history

For the first time in Missouri Southern history, the women’s cross country team won back-to-back Division II South Central Regional titles.

“We ran very well,” said Women’s Head Coach Patty Vavra. “It took a great race from all of the ladies. It was a great example of effort.”

Last season was the first time that any Southern cross county team, men or women, won regionals.

Senior Kara Eckard and junior Kimi Shank were also named to the All-South Central team.

Shank finished the meet second with a time of 20:55, 10 seconds behind Abilene Christian’s Winrose Karunde.

“She had a great race,” Vavra said. “She gave the girl from Abilene (Karunde) a run for her money.”

The finish was Shank’s first loss to a Division II runner this season.

Eckard earned a 7th place finish with a time of 21:58.

“Kara had a nice race as well,” Vavra said. “She’s been consistent for us all season.”

After returning from an injury, junior Courtney Waltbillig finished 18th.

“We really needed her,” Vavra said. “It took everybody doing their role and having her back was very important to our success, especially in the absence of junior Ashley Bunch.”

Senior Kari Fritchie and junior Victoria Kline were 29th and 32nd respectively.

“Kari actually fell in a hole a little over 800 meters into the race,” Vavra said. “She got up and finished as our number-four runner. That gives you a taste of our effort and determination.”

Sophomores Silvia Pineda and Olga Bulgurova rounded out Southern’s team finishing 36th and 42nd.

“That’s something to say about this group of young ladies,” Vavra said. “The tougher the situation, the tougher they get. The more important the race, the better they run.”

The men’s team finished second overall, coming off of a third place finish in the conference meet. Freshmen Jarrko Jarvenpaa and Aki Nummela were also named to the All-South Central team.

“We did well,” said Men’s Cross Country Coach Tom Rutledge. “They did what I told them to do. We ran as a team. Southwest Baptist may have won the battle (conference), but we won the war. We’re going to nationals and SBU is sitting at home.”

Abilene Christian, the top-ranked men’s team in Division II, took first place, boasting the top four runners.

Finland native Jarvenpaa finished the 10k race with a time of 31:56, earning a 10th place finish.

“Jarrko has been sporadic at times,” Rutledge said. ” But, he really stepped up for us.”

Nummela finished 14th, while junior Brennan Benkert was 18th. Benkert finished with a time of 32:27.

“Brennan has always been there,” Rutledge said. “He did his job and set the rhythm for the rest of the team. He’s ‘steady eddie’ right now.”

Freshman Chris Bell finished 19th with a time of 32:29.

“Chris Bell is getting better,” Rutledge said. “He is showing a lot of improvement. We’re working on getting him in the condition he needs to be in.”

Freshmen Shawn Goebel and Deric Kimery were 78th and 120th respectively.

“Our freshmen are improving,” Rutledge said. “Naturally, it’s going to depend on whether or not it is soon enough.”

The appearance at nationals will be the third straight appearance for the men’s team. Both teams will go into the meet nationally ranked. The women are ranked 7th, while the men are 18th.

The national meet will be Nov. 22 in Slippery Rock, Penn.

“It takes time and chemistry to run well as a team,” Rutledge said. “We just need to be patient and stick to the plan. I need one more good race out of them.”