May 16, 2012
Spring 2012, A look back…
By David Boyce
One of the gratifying aspect of following a college program as a fan from one season to the next is to see the growth and improvement of a team or individual.
In that respect, there were some great moments in Northwest Missouri State athletics in the first half of 2012.
It started with the men’s basketball team, which went from failing to make the MIAA Tournament three straight years to claiming a share of the conference title, winning a game in the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA Division II South Central Regional.
In the spring, Northwest sophomore golfer Cassie Lowell won the conference title by an amazing eight strokes. A year ago, Lowell finished 23rd, 33 shots behind the winner.
Senior steeplechase runner Brittany Poole was also determined to top last year when she won the conference title in the steeplechase but fell one spot short of reaching the Division II national meet.
Before Poole repeated as MIAA champion in the steeplechase, she dropped 23 seconds off her personal best and automatically qualified for the national meet.
“It is a big stress reliever that I was able to hit the automatic qualifying mark just because last year I was the first girl not to get picked to go to nationals,” Poole said. “That was really hard to swallow.
Those are three of the most obvious examples of hard work and determination to reach a goal by Northwest athletes.
It was a memorable spring in many respects for Northwest athletics. The men’s tennis team won another conference title despite losing five of their top six players from last year’s conference championship team.
Longtime tennis coach Mark Rosewell got his 900th victory.
As one coach continued to pick up milestone moments, another, women’s basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer, decided it was time to retire and begin a new adventure in his life.
His departure ushers in a new beginning for the women’s basketball program. Mark Kellogg is the sixth women’s basketball coach in school history. He arrives from Fort Lewis College where he was 173-46.
It will be exciting to see where Kellogg takes the program after the thrilling ride by Steinmeyer, who led the Bearcats to some of the highest moments in Bearcat history.
For me, the highlight at the start of 2012 was watching the men’s basketball team make the dramatic jump in the conference standings.
Kyle Haake, Jake Reinders and Jake Petersen stuck together through the tough times and kept plugging away. They were rewarded with a season that anyone associated with Northwest Athletics will remember for quite some time.
“It is awesome,” Haake said at midseason. “Me, Jake Reinders and Jake Petersen have put in a lot work. We have invested a lot of time here. We finally have a great bunch of guys to work with. It is just awesome.”
When the Bearcats hit a bit of a hiccup late in the season, dropping two games in a row, they stuck together.
“We are a smart team,” Reinders said. “We learn from our mistakes. We learn from our losses. I think it gets inside our skin. When we lose, it is something we did and not what the other team did. We try to correct those mistakes. Hopefully, we won’t have a slip up again in order to have a great game the next game.”
The architect of the 2011-12 Bearcats was third-year coach Ben McCollum, who collected numerous postseason awards for his work.
“He believes in what he was doing,” Northwest athletics director Wren Baker said. “He didn’t try and do it on the cheap. He was very patient, very deliberate and he built a program the right way with good, high quality, high character kids. It is sustainable. He returns a high percentage of his offense next year.
“The complete way he has built the program is in a classy manner and it is showing up on the court and in the classroom.”
Lowell probably had the greatest individual achievement of the spring. To win a conference championship as a sophomore is remarkable.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Lowell said. “I was definitely very excited about it. I just went out there to play me best and whatever happened, happened. I was just trying to play my best golf game.”
Northwest golf coach Pat McLaughlin was excited that Lowell played so well at the conference tournament.
“I know the type of quality player Cassie is,” McLaughlin said. “I was so happy for her. She was very disappointed in her performance last year at conference. She has worked really hard this year and it has paid off for her. She had four tournament wins. The culmination was of course her win at conference.
“Her performance last year at conference was not indicative of the fantastic year she had last year as well. I think part of it was just being a freshman at conference the first time. With the year behind her and she understood the quality golf you need to play at conference and she stayed focused.”
Rosewell appreciates all these accomplishments from Bearcat athletes as much as anybody around.
He loves tennis, but he loves Northwest even more. He brings that positive energy to his team and all the other sports.
“He loves all sports,” senior Calvin Patterson said. “Deep down inside he loves tennis. He loves watching tennis. If it were up to him, we would play a match every day. He loves competing and just watching us play. We work for him.
“He has a passion for the game you don’t see often.”
It is easy for Rosewell to find that passion. It’s a passion that resides in all Bearcat fans who take pride in the achievements of student-athletes at Northwest long after they have graduated from the school.
“I really enjoy athletics and just everything about it. I think it is great. Another thing is we got a great school here at Northwest not only athletically, but academically and everything else. It is a great place,” Rosewell said.
School has let out and most of the Northwest athletes have headed home. Many of the outgoing seniors have received their diplomas and are either eager to begin their work careers or preparing for graduate school.
Many underclassmen are already hard at work to put themselves and their teams in position to achieve like the men’s basketball team, Cassie Lowell and Brittany Poole did this spring.
Expect more great moments in the 2012 fall semester that will leave you proud to be a Bearcat because…
Once a Bearcat always a Bearcat!
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