Sept. 9, 2010
Runners ready for 2010
By David Boyce
A race, no matter how short or long, is about where you place and time. Well, that's the focus of the latter stages of the cross country season when conference and region meets roll around.
For the first meet, Northwest Missouri State coach Scott Lorek is looking at the mental aspect for his men's and women's teams.
Northwest opens its season Saturday morning at home in the Bearcat Open against William Jewell and Peru State. The women will run a 5K at 10 a.m. and the men will follow at 10:45 with a 4-mile run.
"It's the same every year," Lorek said of the first meet. "We need to establish ourselves mentally. As the fitness and the speed come around, the mental aspect has to be there.
"We have a difficult, challenging course so we really want to see how we handle that. We like to start off with a challenging course because that challenges us mentally. That's the main thing."
Because of injuries to senior Clay Martin and junior Ryan Darling, the men will compete without two of its top runners.
"Those are two important guys for us," Lorek said.
But one of the Bearcats' top performers will be in action. Junior T.R. Pursell is looking to run a personal best in his first meet of the season.
Pursell is coming off a season in which he earned honorable mention All-MIAA. He wants to be first-team All-MIAA this season.
During the summer he put in the miles, building a solid foundation for this season. He logged 853 miles.
On Saturday, Pursell will see where the summer road work puts him in the early portion of the cross country season.
"The first meet is a good indicator where you are at as far as fitness coming out of summer," Pursell said. "You also want to come out of the first meet injury free."
Pursell expects good things for the Bearcats late in the season if they are healthy.
"If we can stay healthy, who knows at the end of the season, runners come along, workouts catch-up and pay off and people get in the right mental state, anything can happen," Pursell said.
Excitement is even higher for the women's team. They enter the season ranked No. 22 nationally. It's a big jump for the Bearcats, who just a few years ago were consistently eighth in the MIAA and region.
"It was really surprising, but definitely exciting because we've all worked hard and the team has come a long ways in the three or four years I've been here," Hrdlicka said. "It is nice to see hard work pay off and get recognized for all the time, effort and miles we put into it."
The roster consists of five seniors and four juniors. Lorek has watched these runners grow each year.
They arrived at Northwest with high school times that wouldn't lead you to believe that one day they would become a nationally-ranked team.
Lorek, though, recruited them more on the desire he saw in them. He could see they wanted to improve their times.
"They didn't really care where they were starting from. They cared where they were going," Lorek said.
"This is something we've been building for and hoping for. It's a very determined, focused group of women. It has taken a few years to get there. They have been basically the same group for several years and they have just progressed to this level.
"I'm real high on both teams. The men's team, realistically, is going to take a little time to jell. We have a few injuries from the summer. The start of our season will be a little slow. But by the time we get to the conference meet and the regional meet, we will be at full strength and a pretty formidable team."
Like Pursell, Hrdlicka is looking forward to the first meet.
"It's exciting because it gives you a gauge of where you are and shows you what you've done over the summer," she said. "A lot of our training is over the summer and we are not necessarily together.
"It's a nice way to get your feet wet and take a little pressure off for the first big meet. You get back into racing and back in the competitive mode."
Hrdlicka is hoping for big things down the road for the Bearcats.
"We are ranked fourth in the region and the top three teams go to nationals," she said. "All of us have that kind of goal in the back of our mind. We at least want to be in there fighting to go to nationals and see how far we can go as a team."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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