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  • PSU women make third straight nationals

  • The Pittsburg State women’s cross country team qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships for the third straight year, placing fifth at regionals two weeks ago in Joplin.

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  • The Pittsburg State women’s cross country team qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships for the third straight year, placing fifth at regionals two weeks ago in Joplin.
    Pitt State head coach Russ Jewett will bring senior Kaley Temaat, junior Casey Epps, sophomore Bridgette McCormick, freshman Hannah DeVries, sophomore Alex Moase, senior Amanda Callaway and sophomore Cate Dunn, as well as one alternate in junior team captain Erica Testa, to Joplin on Saturday.
    Past cross country championships have been held in places like Spokane (Wash.) and Pensacola (Fla). Joplin and Missouri Southern host for the third time — Joplin previously hosted in 1999 and 2007.
    “Part of going to nationals can be seeing a new place, going somewhere exotic,” Jewett said. “I know five or six years ago our women qualified and we went to Pensacola, Fla. They stayed in a hotel right on the beach because that was part of a National Sports Festival.
    “We’re familiar with the (Missouri Southern) course, it feels almost like a home competition and it will be easier for everybody’s family and friends to come see them and some Pitt State folks can come see them easier. There’s trade-offs.”
    At regionals, the seven Pitt State competitors all finished under 23 minutes: Temaat 22:11.9, Epps 22:22.4, McCormick 22:25.9, DeVries 22:28.6, Moase 22:31.8, Callaway 22:51.7 and Dunn 22:52.2. Temaat finished 26th, Epps 33rd, McCormick 35th, DeVries 39th, Moase 42nd, Callaway 60th and Dunn 61st, helping Pitt State finish 15 points ahead of Southwest Baptist and only two behind fourth place Missouri Southern.
    “We want everybody to have a high place and a low score but some schools have a weak No. 5 and in cross country, that hurts you,” Jewett said. “If you’re in track and field and if your fifth-best distance runner is not very good, that’s not a big deal. If your fifth-best distance runner in cross country is not very good, it’s a big deal. We have a strength there, we have balance and depth.”
    Jewett compared this year’s group with previous years.
    “It’s above-average in depth and how many good runners we have,” he said. “What we don’t have this year is a frontrunner (a runner who finishes in the top 10 at conference or regional meets). We’ve had that the last couple years and we haven’t had that this year. That’s a little bit of a disadvantage when you go to a national championship because there’s a lot of great competition. A lot of people’s No. 2-4 runners will be ahead of our No. 1 and that pushes our score down even more than it does Missouri Southern, who has a good frontrunner or two. The dynamics are different at nationals.
    “On the other hand, the pack group we have, that’s an advantage because they’re very familiar and they’ll be able to see each other the whole race even though there’ll be 248 runners. That will be an asset for us.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Pitt State possesses young runners like sophomore McCormick and freshman DeVries, runners who still might have their best races ahead of them, and the veterans all have a chance for one more race.
    “We’re happy with that,” Jewett said of three straight years. “We’re proud that we’ll be able to represent Pittsburg State at the national level. We hope to it keep going. We did it again this year, so it’s possible to keep it going. We barely qualified this year but we still know that we belong there.”
    Jewett’s thoughts on each athlete:
    Kaley has done a fantastic job of leading the team in terms of performance this year. Every race she’s been in this year, she’s been our No. 1 runner. We held her out at one meet for reasons of development. The one thing I’m most proud of about Kaley is that we totally overhauled her racing style to help the team. She’s more comfortable going at an even pace and then coming on strong at the end and passing people and finishing strong. With a pack type of team, sometimes it’s hard to get someone to pull that group toward the front. I wanted her to be that person (to pull the group) and without hesitation she stepped into that role and did a great job. I’m proud of her.
    I’m extremely proud of her for some different reasons. She’s overcome more adversity than almost any other kid that I’ve had in our distance program with illness and injuries. It’s her fourth year in school and her third season of cross country. She’s really improved a ton this year and has gotten more confidence in herself.
    She’s a senior and she’s not been a go-to person in cross country necessarily, she’s more of a middle-distance runner. She’s kind of come into her own this year and finished in the top five for us a couple times. She finished No. 6 for us at regionals. If it’s possible, she was maybe happier than anybody on the team at the regionals because this was her last chance to make nationals, at least in cross country. She’s one of only two girls who hasn’t been to nationals in track or cross country. I’m extremely proud of her.
    She has a great attitude and great work ethic. A little inconsistent this year but when it really counted, especially at regionals, she came through big and I think she’s due to do that again (Saturday).
    Page 3 of 3 - Hannah has been very consistent for us this year, especially considering that she’s a freshman. An outstanding teammate and she’s done a great job adapting to college life, college cross country and our team. I’m real happy with her.
    She’s a sophomore who got hurt during last year’s conference competition and went with the team to nationals but didn’t race. She went as an alternate because of an injury. She’s felt what it’s like to be at a nationals but she hasn’t raced in one. She’s a very steady runner. She likes to push from behind and that will be a bit of a challenge in this race to pass people but I think she can do it. She’s like a little running back out there and she’s an intense competitor.
    Cate is an extremely hard worker and a caring, compassionate individual. She’s an unifier. She’s an underclassman who does a great job of unifying our team.
    Erica Testa tried to race at the conference meet but just couldn’t get quite enough training to be fit enough to make the top seven. We’re going to take her along as an alternate. She’s been a great leader for the team. She’s our team captain. Without her, we wouldn’t be as good as we are, even though she hasn’t been in our top five or top seven.

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