Nov. 19, 2010
Cross Country Heads to Regional Meet
By David Boyce
The top two men's teams and the top three women's teams in Saturday's South Central cross country meet at Central Missouri advances to the NCAA Division II national meet.
Northwest Missouri State men's team is ranked fifth and the women are ranked fourth.
Undoubtedly, pressure exists for both teams to move up and gain entry in the national meet, which will be held Dec. 4 in Louisville, Ky.
In Scott Lorek's seven years as head coach of the cross country program, he's never had a team or an individual advance to the national meet.
He likes the odds of that changing.
All season his teams have been opening eyes. The men's and women's teams are coming off third-place finishes in the MIAA Championships.
"I think both teams have legitimate shots. We are going in fighting for it," Lorek said.
The women's team is led by junior Angela Adams, who placed second at the conference meet. Junior T.R. Pursell led the men with a third-place finish at the MIAA meet.
Both Adams and Pursell are capable of reaching the national meet even if their teams fall short. The top two individuals that are not on any of the teams that qualify also advance to nationals.
With so much at stake Saturday the nerves could have definitely been building all week for the Bearcats.
Lorek, though, took steps to help his runners go into the regional meet as relaxed as possible. They went bowling on Wednesday.
"We needed a little team time when we would not talk about running," he said.
At the conference meet, Lorek noticed some of his women runners weren't as relaxed as he wanted them to be.
"They competed tremendously and that's what pulled them through," Lorek said. "Hopefully, if we can be relaxed this weekend, we can have even better results. We have a very good shot of moving up one or two places from where we were.
"So yes, if we are a little more relaxed, a little more confident, I think we can do that. Like any athlete, if you are out there trying to prove yourself every time, there is a little more stress. I think we can handle this better."
Whatever happens on Saturday, Lorek is pleased with the upward direction both programs have taken this season. He said the men's team opened some eyes with their third-place finish at conference.
"I think about when we started here that first year and the progress we've made," he said. "We have several women on the team, and they talk about this, when they came in as freshmen, they really had no idea the team would become this good and get to this point. They have really taken our program to a place that four or five years ago nobody would have expected.
The women's team has caught the attention of a former runner.
"I just got an e-mail from Anna O'Brien, who graduated from here, and holds a couple of school records and has been all-region and all-conference for us. She's been the closest. She just missed going to nationals two years ago by one place," Lorek said.
"She saw we were only five points from Missouri Southern and she didn't think we would ever be at the point of challenging Missouri Southern in cross country. Here we are doing it."
Lorek said the course at Central Missouri is perfect for the runners to test their skill against others.
"We haven't run there this year. Some of them have run there in the past. It's a good course," he said. "It's an honest course. It's not too flat and not too hilly. People will be able to compete with each other. Sometimes a course is so difficult that you are almost competing against the course."
If the Bearcats continue to compete like they have all fall, the results could be the best that Lorek has seen in his seven years at Northwest.
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