O'FALLON, Ill. - Mary Beth Bailey finished third and Emily High crossed three places later in sixth, both earning American Midwest Conference all-conference honors but more importantly, both led the Pirates to a second place finish at the AMC Championships, sending the Park University women's cross country team to the NAIA National Championship in Elsah, Illinois, Saturday, November 19. The Park men finished third, missing the national meet by two points, but a second-place finish for Christian Skinner and fourth for Ryan Zitter sent both to the national meet as individual qualifiers.
"We've been steadily improving, but these kids exceeded my expectations today," said Park coach Brian Renshaw. "Five kids ran a lifetime best, Christian Skinner ran 40 seconds faster than his PR. This was just a good day for our program and I'm happy with the result, This was a goal - making the national meet - and now we're able to see where we stack up against the rest of the country. It's huge, considering how we finished in this conference meet last year."
Park's women were one point from a conference title, scoring 70 to Missouri Baptist's 69, as Bailey finished in 19:55 and High ended in 20:27. Erin Esry also added to the team score with 21:19, finishing 19th, while Samantha Guardado as 21st, and Rachel Gilbert finished 25th in 22:04. the pirates also had finishes from Jerosan Fletcher (22:21) and Brooke Kelly (24:42).
The Park women made the national meet by beating Hannibal-LaGrange by 13 points.
"Hannibal-LaGrange has been strong for a very long time, and getting to the national meet ahead of them is big for us," Renshaw said. "It's tough for our men to miss it by just a couple of points, but we'll be represented and we have something to build on."
Skinner qualified for the national meet finishing second in 26:10 (8K), while Zitter made the national meet in in 27:18.
"We have a couple of weeks to get ready, and we'll work hard in that time to be prepared," Renshaw said.
The American Midwest Conference is the host for the 2016 NAIA National Championship in Elsah, Illinois, at Principia College. The event is slated for November 19.
CONFERENCE RECAP, FROM AMCSPORTSONLINE.COM
The American Midwest Conference held its 2016 Cross Country Championships at the O'Fallon Family Sports Park on Friday, November 4, and when all was decided, the Missouri Baptist University Spartans and Columbia College Cougars claimed the AMC Cross Country Titles for 2016. For the Spartans, the win is their first ever AMC title in Women's Cross Country, while the Cougars grabbed their third straight AMC men's title.
The women's race went first, with 77 runners taking on the 5K course. Columbia's Naomi Payne won the race individually, taking home AMC Runner of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors as a result, in a time of 19:41. Missouri Baptist's Rebecca Starrett, Park University's Mary Beth Bailey, Lindenwood University-Belleville's Emily Erdman, and St. Louis College of Pharmacy's Janki Patel rounded out the top-five, all finishing within 33 seconds of each other. Alessandra Moss was the AMC's newcomer of the Year, finishing in 12th.
The Spartans took home the team title thanks to strong finishes from their top four runners. In addition to Starrett, Jynna Fritz finished seventh, Ansley Little finished 10th, and Faith Reynolds crossed the line in 16th position. Denise McCandrew finished in 34th as the last score for the Spartans, while Shana Foster finished 38th, and Allison Huskey finished 40th. The victory, which came by a single point over Park University, helped MBU coach Katie cline secure a unanimous selection as the AMC Coach of the Year as well.
The Spartans and the second place Park Pirates received the AMC's two automatic bids to the NAIA National Championship which will be hosted by the AMC at the North Farms Cross Country Course in Elsah, Ill. on November 19th. In addition, the conference also qualified four individual runners from four other AMC institutions to run at the National Championship – Payne of Columbia, Emily Erdman from Lindenwood-Belleville, Janki Patel of St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and Stephens College's Malindi Congour.
One hour after the start of the women's race, the men's championship took to the course for an 8K distance, and the Cougars and William Woods University Owls battled from wire to wire for the championship. The Cougars lineup, however, proved to be too deep, as Columbia scored five runners in the top-15, including four in the top-10.
Columbia's Malik Holman duplicated the feat of Payne, taking home the individual win, and with it Runner of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors. He covered the course in 26:01, finishing nine seconds ahead of Park's Christian Skinner in second place and was the AMC Newcomer of the Year. Tyler Alverson of Freed-Hardeman University, Paco Rosales of Lindenwood-Belleville, and Kaleb Wilson of William Woods also grabbed top-five finishes in the 89 runner field.
In addition to Holman, Columbia had Travis Line (7th), Seth Schenck (8th) and Alex Slater (10th) finish in the top 10, as Columbia won the team title by 25 points. The Cougars last scoring runner was Grant Uthlaut in 13th, while Tyler Lawson and Dylan White finished 21st and 33rd, respectively.
The Owls finished second to the Cougars, and in doing so, they secured the AMC's second bid to the NAIA National Championships later this month. The Conference's four individual qualifiers to the National Championship were Skinner, Alverson, Rosales, and Park's Ryan Zitter.
The American Midwest Conference is a 13-school NAIA Division I conference with schools in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee. It was chartered in 1986 as the Show-Me Collegiate Conference becoming the American Midwest Conference in 1994. The Conference sponsors 16 championships, eight each for men and women - baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's indoor track & field, men's and women's outdoor track & field, women's volleyball and men's wrestling.