By Jim Fryar
Globe Sports Writer
Missouri Southern runners took advantage of the elements Saturday.
The Lions slipped and slid and splashed like everyone else in the First to the Finish Stampede.
But Missouri Southern was the top NCAA Division II team in both university divisions of the annual cross country race.
After 4.5 inches of rain in two days, the Southern cross country course held plenty of obstacles, including thick mud and standing water.
“The rain, the bad weather ... that’s cross country,” said Tom Rutledge, Southern men’s coach. “Everybody has to run in it. ... It doesn’t just rain on some of us. The best way to run in it is straight through. The sooner you finish, the sooner you get dry.”
The Southern men ran to a second-place finish. Tulsa won the university division with 41 points and the Lions scored 72. Oklahoma Christian was third (102).
MIAA members Southwest Baptist and Pittsburg State were fifth and seventh, respectively.
Missouri Southern’s women finished third (115 points) behind Tulsa (19) and Arkansas (72). Midwestern (Texas) State was fourth and Pittsburg State finished fifth.
“It was nice to see those yellow jerseys up fairly close to the front,” said Patty Vavra, Southern women’s coach.
Kimi Shank-Reed, a recent Missouri Southern All-American, won the women’s five-kilometer race in 17 minutes, 21.68 seconds. Shank-Reed finished 12 seconds ahead of Tulsa’s Sarah Macpherson.
Freshman Emily Harris was 14th overall and third among D-II runners to lead Southern.
“She ran a lifetime PR (personal best),” Vavra said. “(Junior) Rachel Schrader was right there with her. (Senior) Marlee (Tegenkamp) had a good race today with the limited training she’s been able to do and Kaitlyn (Belisle, a junior) pulled into the No. 4 spot. Lauren Baehr (sophomore) had a strong finish.
“The idea is to see if we can pack that group in pretty tight and push together. They were able to do that today.”
Schrader, an all-MIAA runner last season, was expected to run with Harris.
“She was feeling good and she just took off and had a great race,” Schrader said of her teammate. “She was able to run out front, which was great. I tried my best (to catch Harris), but she was just too far out in front.”
The Lions accepted the weather as an ally, Schrader said.
“It helps us get pumped up,” she said. “We think of it as some of the teams being discouraged by the weather. But we knew everyone had to run in it and it was going to be an exciting race.”
Rutledge said he had a “reckoning” with his runners.
“We didn’t run well (in an opening dual) at Arkansas,” he said. “We challenged them this week, no matter what the conditions, go to out hard. They went through the first mile in 4:42.
“It’s hard to catch up on a wet course, and muddy. We went out and attacked.”
Sophomore Eric Schott led the Lions with a third-place finish in 25:08.35 over eight kilometers.
Adam Volkert, a senior in eligibility at Pittsburg State, won in 24:38.68 competing unattached.
“Eric Schott, (sophomore) Adrian Todd, (junior) Jacob Benton, (sophomore) Andrew Webster ... they all packed in well,” Rutledge said. “(Sophomore) Colton Wooldridge was making a move at the end.
“It doesn’t matter what condition they’re (running) in, everything is relative. They have to understand it’s just like a dry course, and you don’t worry about slipping and sliding. One of them fell on the back part (of the track), but he bounced back up and kept rolling. Things happen. You just have to overcome them.”