The men’s and women’s cross country teams pose with their MIAA conference trophy after winning the championship. This is the first time in Pittsburg history that both teams have won the conference in the same season. Photo courtesy of Pitt State Athletics
Alyssa Tyler editor in chief
The Pittsburg State men’s and women’s cross-country teams made school history last weekend by sweeping the MIAA Cross Country Championships in Columbia, Mo. It was the first time in school history that both teams walked away with a championship win in the same season.
“It was pretty surreal, honestly,” Redshirt junior Braden Zaner said. “I mean, before the men’s race, we found out that the women had won their race on the starting line. So, the attitude is kind of ‘OK, now it’s our turn to take care of business…’ Once we all (crossed) the finish line realized we had won. It was like, ‘holy crap, we just did that.’ And of course, the whole women’s team ran up and they were all going crazy.”
The men’s team placed four runners in the top 20. Redshirt senior Matthew Oglesby finished fifth at 24:27.85 seconds. Redshirt senior Mason Strader placed 6th with a time of 24:31.81. Both Oglesby and Strader received All-MIAA honors by placing in the top 10 in the race. Zaner finished 15th at 24:58.39 and Redshirt freshman Dylan Sprecker finished at 19th with a time of 25:08.94. Zaner and Sprecker were given honorable mention All-MIAA by placing in the top 20. The men’s team scored 67 points overall.
The men’s team knew they had a chance to win, Zaner said.
“I think we were, we’re all aware of our opportunity to potentially win,” Zaner said. “I think we all knew that. If we performed. Not even you know, best case scenario, but just up to the standard hold ourselves to that we would probably walk away with the win, so that’s not to say it was a given, but I think we were all, you know, very aware that we were fully capable of winning.”
Looking at the women’s team, they won the race with a total of 57 points. Redshirt junior Kate Dawson took second place with a time of 21:36.67 in the 5K race. Freshman Paige Mullen finished 7th with a time of 21:52.25. Freshman Hannah Gibson took 8th at 21:58.31. These three runners received All-MIAA honors by placing in the top ten.
“We were pretty confident going in,” Redshirt junior Marissa Dick said. “We’ve had a lot of really good training throughout this season. I mean, just like every other season, there’s different bumps that you hit throughout the season, but we were really confident in each other. We have a lot of trust and love and passion on this team. And so we all, they’re just relying on each other there. There wasn’t just one person on the team that was fighting for themselves, you’re fighting for each other.
Redshirt junior Claire Bruening placed 16th overall with 22:19.2, Bruening earned honorable mention All-MIAA honors for her top 20 finish. And Dick placed 24th with a time of 22:42.52 overall.
Dick, however, didn’t leave the meet with only the championship trophy, she was named the MIAA’s “A Game” Scholar Athlete of the 2023 Women’s Cross Country Championship.
The award is given to one individual who has maintained the highest academic standing among their peers, while contributing to their team’s success. Dick is a junior in Communication with a 4.00 GPA.
“It’s a big honor and I can’t really comprehend how much it really means to me. I never thought I would win something (like that). Just hard work in the classroom,” Dick said.
Zaner said, although the team expects stiffer competition in the regionals, the goal remains the same.
“So regionals, I mean, it’s the next step,” Zaner said. “So it’s stiffer competition. But the top three teams at Regionals qualify for nationals. So that’s the big goal. Ideally, we would love to win Regionals. But if that just doesn’t end up happening for whatever reason, just getting to nationals is the main goal. As an individual, I would like to place top ten and, of course, different people on the team kind of fall into different positions there. I mean, everybody has their own goals, but you know, if enough people accomplish their personal goals, then we’ll probably end up going to nationals, which is a good field. We’re still pretty confident moving forward, even though things are going to get harder from here.”
For the women’s team, Dick said the goal is for both the men’s and women’s team to qualify for nationals.
I would love to be all-regional individually, but it’s not about me personally,” Dick said. “As a team we want to place (in the) top three and automatically qualify to nationals. I think if both men’s and women’s teams run to our fullest potential, we can be runners-up at the meet, and both go to nationals this year.
The NCAA Division II Cross Country Regionals will be held Sat., Nov. 4, at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo.