Vestal, Bears claim titles at Missouri State Cross Country Classic
Missouri State University opened its new cross country facility at Springfield Underground in style Saturday, as the Bears wrapped up their second team title in as many meets by outpacing the six-team field at the inaugural MSU Cross Country Classic in Springfield, Mo. MSU senior Carrie Vestal won the collegiate women’s 5K, her second title of the 2007 season, while Drake’s Barry Hill claimed first place on the men’s side to lead the Bulldogs to victory in the 8K race.
Vestal, who won the individual title at the Washington University Early Bird Meet on Sept. 1, bested the competition with a run of 18:29 on Saturday. She withstood a strong challenge from Drake’s Nicole Braunsdorf on the final stretch, but pulled out the victory with a strong final kick. Braunsdorf finished second with a time of 18:32, followed by a trio of Missouri State runners. Junior Jamie Vest (18:50), who came in second at WU’s meet in St. Louis, finished third, with junior Kristin Wolkey (19:10) and freshman Nancy Nieto (19:23) close behind in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Senior Asher Kyger (19:32) posted a seventh-place finish in her Missouri State debut, while sophomore Emily Fletcher also came through with a top-10 performance, finishing eighth with a run of 19:41. Sophomore Staci Nelson (20:44) placed 17th and freshman Katie Click (21:34) came in 20th. Another MSU freshman, Mari-Jean Vance, finished in the top 25 with a run of 21:51.
Missouri State (20 points) has placed four of the top five finishers in each of its first two races of the 2007 season after Saturday’s victory. Behind the performances of Braunsdorf and sixth-place finisher Casey McDermott, Drake (48 points) secured the second spot, followed by UMKC (87), Drury (91), Webster (147) and Chicago State (166).
In the collegiate men’s 8K, Hill cruised to the title in 26:52, besting his Drake teammate Leyden Tolhurst by 12 seconds. The Bulldogs (24 points) claimed six of the top 10 spots to earn the victory over second-place Drury (43). The Panthers’ Geoff Hughes finished third overall with a run of 27:10, while Jaime Villa Zapate (27:16) and Steven Busch (28:14) also posted top 10 finishes for Drury. UMKC (72) finished third, as Jimmy Koewn turned in a run of 27:17, good for fourth place overall.
Kicking off the festivities Saturday morning was the Citizen’s 5K, which was won by former MSU harrier Michael Farmer (17:44). Shelly Friberg captured the women’s title with a run of (21:31).
The Classic was the first home meet for Missouri State in six years and the Bears’ first ever event at their new facility, located at Springfield Underground. Missouri State will host the 2008 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Championship and hopes to secure the 2009 NCAA Midwest Regional for Springfield in the coming months. Missouri State has also submitted a bid for the NCAA national meet.
Missouri State will travel to Stillwater, Okla., next Saturday, Sept. 29, to take part in the Oklahoma State University Cowboy Jamboree at 9 a.m.