Women look to defend Triple Crown

Women look to defend Triple Crown

Women look to defend Triple Crown

The Missouri Southern women’s cross country team will return a veteran team tonight at the University of Arkansas.

“This will be a great meet for us to see where we need to improve,” said Patty Vavra, women’s cross country head coach.

“Being able to run against schools such as Arkansas and Oklahoma will give us a nice test to see where we are at.”

Southern returns with senior runners Kara Eckard and Kari Fritchie. Eckard placed 17th in last year’s Southern Stampede, seventh in the MIAA Cross Country Championships and seventh in the Division II South Central Regional.

“I’m excited to put on the green and gold once again, lace up the spikes, and shake out all of the racing cob webs as we start off the season,” Eckard said.

“As for me and many of my fellow teammates, we are hungrier than ever for that allusive All American status!”

Juniors Kimi Shank, Courtney Waltbillig, Ashley Bunch, Victoria Kline, and sophomore Olga Bulgurova will also return for the Lions.

Shank placed third in the Southern Stampede last season and second in the MIAA Championships.

“Kimi has done a lot for us,” Vavra said.

“She is only the third cross country runner in Southern’s history to be an All-American.”

Bunch finished fifth. Eckard and Waltbillig were seventh and tenth respectively.

Freshmen Allyson Benkert, MaKenzie Seidel and sophomore Silvia Pineda will add to Southern’s depth this season.

Benkert is the sister of men’s cross country runner, junior Brennan Benkert. Pineda is a transfer from Crowder Community College, but has not run cross country since high school.

“I expect to see the girls improve as the season goes on,” Vavra said.

“They are starting to get up in the pack with the other girls.”

After winning the coveted triple crown last year, the women’s team starts the season as a favorite to win the MIAA title. Pittsburgh State was picked second, followed by Southwest Baptist and Central Missouri.

“Our team goals are the same this season: win conference, move on to nationals, and place higher than we did the year before,” Bulgurova said.

“We are extremely committed to them and have the experience and the chemistry necessary to get them accomplished. Individually, my biggest goal is to contribute to the team’s success.”

The Lions are ranked second in the South Central Region behind Abilene Christian and 11th nationally.

“This is the direction we want our program to go,” Vavra said.

“With continued success come increased pressure. The key is going to be for us to stay healthy.”