HILLSBORO, Ill. -- The Spalding women's cross country team won their first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday with a one-point victory over Greenville in the team results.
The one-point edge was the closest race in the conference's history. The Golden Eagles avenged a second-place finish from last season and are now champions after finishing sixth just two years ago.
"Today was a remarkable accomplishment for our women's program. From day one I have ensured our women knew of the responsibility and honor to be stated as the very first to accomplish this feat. They took a lot of pride to prepare themselves to literally win by one point," stated Coach Sowder.
Senior Kayla Payne lead the Golden Eagles to victory as she completed the 6K course in a time of 23:31.23, a third-place overall finish. The time also sets the Spalding women's school record for a 6K race. "Kayla Payne, I believe, was ready for the races to go up in distance. This young lady has such an engine. She just continued to press as the race unfolded," commented Sowder. Payne was joined in the top-ten by teammates Jenna Johnson who finished fifth with a time of 23:36.85 and Rachel Cowles eighth at 23:46.48.
"I knew we would have a 1,2,3 punch with Kayla, Jenna and Rachel [Cowles]. The last couple of workouts these three have been with each other stride for stride practically. The biggest question was how we were going to match up after those three and whom would step up for us."
Stepping up for the Golden Eagles was Megan Ward, who finished 18th with a time of 24:48.68 and Natalie Shirley who finished 26th with a time 25:34.90 to round out the Golden Eagles scoring runners. "Megan had a great adjustment half way through the race and Natalie knew what she had to do [to beat] within the second half of the race for us to have a shot," stated Sowder.
Kara Weaver finished four spots back at 30 crossing the finish line in 26:01.73. Paige Perkins finished 36th overall and had a "breakout performance" with a time of 26:30.49.
Hannah Eldridge was 37th at 27:42.59, Rachel Herrald finished 41st at 28:34.85 and Kelsie Suttle rounded out the Golden Eagle harriers with a time of 30:17.91.
"When I became head coach one of the goals was to quickly establish our women's program to the same level as the men. I did not want it to be one dimensional. Winning conference and having two runners make first team all conference and one among the second team tells me we are getting there," Sowder finished.
The Golden Eagles harriers will be back on the course November 14 at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Hillsboro, Ill. - The Spalding University men's cross country team won their second consecutive St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, Saturday afternoon at the Hillsboro Golf and Country Club Hillsboro, Ill. The Golden Eagles captured the 2015 title on the strength of their top runners, placing three runners in the top six finishers.
The Golden Eagles finished with 41 total team points, with Brandon Price leading the way by capturing the individual title navigating the 8K course in a time of 25:22.72. Price pulled ahead of the pack of the top six runners just before the two-mile marker and never looked back as he crossed the line taking the individual crown earning 2015 SLIAC Men's XC Runner of the Year.
Sowder commented on Price's performance, "I felt we posted the individual who would win the race. Brandon has looked strong all year and has really stayed in the moment in every single race. I believe his result from today is a testament to his work ethic this year, and ability to handle all the outside factors that can effect ones training and their potential to win."
Senior Nathan Mark followed it the order finishing fifth with a time of 26:20.39, while sophomore Spencer Mitchell grabbed a sixth place finish with a time of 26:21.72.
The senior duo of Allen Matthews and Tyler Edmondson rounded out the SU top-5. Matthews clocked at 27:08.58 and Edmondson ran the course in 27:23.40.
Joining the Golden Eagles as 2015 SLIAC Champions are runners Parker Bettag, Cory Heslin, Colin Schell, Brandon Hulse, Nick Gilmore, Robert Daugherty, and Justin Gallagher. Spalding becomes the fifth program in SLIAC history to win multiple championships and is the first team to repeat since Fontbonne University in 2008 and 2009.
"I felt we had several big moments from several bodies on the team. Spencer Mitchell continued the progression he made two weeks ago and raced a very solid race. Parker Bettag and Robert Daugherty had monster races. They are the type that when the stakes are highest they tend to rise up," commented Sowder.
Coach Sowder finished, "I absolutely love post-season. It's a chess match out there, who's going to make moves, who can respond, what moves we are going to make. It's about being in a situation and knowing what you must do for your team to win, and we did a pretty good job of that today!"
The Golden Eagle harriers will be back in action at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, Saturday, November 14 in Terre Haute, Ind.