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Northwest Bearcats

1975 Women's Cross Country Team

Former Northwest athletic director and women's basketball coach Sherri Reeves helped jumpstart the women's cross country program in 1973. She appointed Debbie Jones to be its leader and with a coach and a starting squad of five runners, the Bearkittens, as they were called then, were literally off and running.

In 1974, Ann Kimm-Valdez, Yvonne Reiman, Luann Phillips, Marla McAlpin and Trish van Oosbree competed as Northwest Missouri State student-athletes for the first time. A year later, Julie Harris, Betty Grieser, Debbie Johns and Kris Hagedorn joined the squad. Their success was immediate, their accomplishments, remarkable.

Northwest won the Missouri Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championship in its inaugural season in 1974. The team won it again in 1975. Winning the state title meant a ticket to the national cross country meet where the Bearkittens would compete with the top programs in the United States. The first AIAW national championship was held November 15, 1975, in Ames, Iowa. Northwest placed 11th.

Consider this. A program in its infancy finished as the top small college team in back-to-back seasons. There was no distinction of divisions in the mid 1970s. Northwest competed at nationals with the likes of Iowa State, who won the inaugural title in 1975, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon and Florida. The field of 170 runners included world record holder Peg Neppel of the host Cyclones and Wendy Koenig Knudson, an Olympian from Colorado State. Northwest's Ann Kimm-Valdez placed 26th.

All of the teammates here tonight will no doubt reflect and smile. They all will remember the support they received from the men's team, the 5:30 a.m. practices with coach Jones riding alongside on her bike and Roller Coaster Hill. They will recall learning about Wyoming from Yvonne, Julie's forbidden trip to Dairy Queen and Marla's huge grin.

They ran together, they won together and now we celebrate their induction into Northwest's Hall of Fame.