Oct. 7, 2010
Challenge issued, challenge met
By David Boyce
Juniors T.R. Pursell and Angela Adams gave Northwest Missouri State coach Scott Lorek confirmation that his men's and women's cross country runners are listening.
Before the Bearcats strode into competition, Lorek talked to them in preseason training about being tough.
Beyond the physical toll of men running an 8K race and women running 5K, it takes mental toughness to place high in a meet to help the team finish at or near the top.
Adversity that occurs before or during the course of a race must be ignored.
Pursell and Adams gave glowing examples of it last Saturday at the Emporia State Planet Sub Invitational.
Adams was the top finisher for college runners and second overall out of 202 women competing. Her time of 17 minutes, 57.27 seconds was 47 seconds faster than her mark on that same course a year ago.
In addition, Adams became just the third Bearcat ever to break the 18-minute mark. The only other time it happened was in 1996 when two Northwest runners ran a 17:33 and 17:34 in the same race.
No question, Adams had a fantastic week and earned MIAA women's cross country runner of the week. And she ran the race after breaking the radius of her right elbow six days earlier and wasn't even able to run for two days.
But as remarkable a day as Adams had, what Pursell did at the Emporia State Planet Sub Invitational might be the best example of being tough.
Pursell finished 23rd.
So what makes his effort as notable as Adams? He proved you can finish far from first and still show character and come out a winner in the eyes of your teammates.
Three miles into the race Pursell was in fifth place when the top runner took a wrong turn. The next five runners followed.
"That's the first time it has ever happened to me," Pursell said. "I have never been lost on a cross country course. I realized it almost as soon it happened that we had taken the wrong turn. But what went through my mind was the guy ahead, nobody corrected him so I followed him and thought maybe we do go this way."
By the time the mistake was corrected, Pursell found himself in 40th place.
"He could have been very frustrated, thrown in the towel and gotten angry," Lorek said. "But he got back in it and worked his way back up."
|Junior T.R. Pursell took a wrong turn but battled back to finish in 23rd place.|
The natural inclination is to shrug the shoulders and get ready for the Bearcats' next meet, which is the Arkansas Chilli Pepper Festival on Oct. 16.
Pursell let his mind wander to his teammates.
"A couple of thoughts run through your head," Pursell said. "I'm not going to get the spot I wanted. Do I try anymore? But that's really where, cross country as an individual sport, turns into something where the team thing comes in. I got to keep going for the guys to see if I can get back what I lost."
Pursell's finish helped Northwest take third out of 25 teams. The Bearcats also ran without Zach Layton, who had ROTC commitments.
"It was a time for some other guys to step up and compete well," Lorek said. "It is definitely encouraging we can do that. We are going to be just that much better when we get Zach with us."
Lorek considered last weekend's event an important test for his men's and women's teams.
"We had kind of a training goal over the weekend that we would start to put things together," Lorek said. "From my perspective, I put a little pressure on myself that we had organized ourselves well enough that we would start to do well.
"Fortunately, we did put things together. We are right on track to continue through the rest of the year. Definitely, it was real encouraging to us."
The results couldn't have been better for the women's team. Adams' strong effort helped the women place first out of 22 teams.
Adams wanted to run. She missed the second meet of the season, the Minnesota Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis on Sept. 25. The flu bug struck her hard and left her in Maryville.
"It was really frustrating," Adams said. "I never been to Minnesota so it was a race I was looking forward to because there were going to be a lot of teams there. The fact I couldn't race made me want to race even more last weekend even though I hurt my elbow."
The way the injury occurred could have left Adams thinking that bad luck was now attached to her name.
"On Sunday, when we got back from Minnesota, Angela and I went on a 9-mile run and Angela tripped over her shoelaces and she actually has a crack in her radius in her right elbow," Lorek said.
"She didn't run Monday or Tuesday. She learned it would heal in a few weeks as long as she didn't fall. So she had a traumatic week and then she had to worry about somebody hitting her elbow or falling. For her to have that kind of week and then her coming back and running that kind of race I think is just outstanding."
With two meets left before the MIAA Championships on Nov. 6 at Fort Hays State, the men's and women's teams are encouraged by the way they are running so far.
"Numerous years in cross country we have been ranked low even in meets like (Emporia)," Pursell said. "When we finished third with me going the wrong direction and Zach not being with us on that day, we looked at the results and guesstimated that we would have beaten Emporia if I would have gone the right way and Zach was with us. It is definitely an encouraging thing."
Adams said the women's team did well.
"We went out there and knew what we had to do," she said. "This course is one where everybody tries to get out fast or you get trapped so we went in with a game plan and we stuck to it."
Now the Bearcats are gearing up for what Lorek is calling the championship portion of the schedule. He put his team through a couple of hard workouts this week because there is no weekend event.
"We will do a lot of work this week and then back off a little next week," Lorek said. "This is an important week for us to handle the transition phase.
"We tell them every time you go out you got to be ready because there aren't that many races. Everyone has to be good."
Based on what happened last week, his runners are listening to his words.
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