Women’s cross-country pulls off shocker, wins Midwest regional

The team will advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2004.

The Mizzou cross country team practices at the Audrey J. Walton Track Stadium on Sep. 13, 2016.

The Missouri women’s cross-country team shocked the Midwest region Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, placing four of its top five runners in the top 25 en route to its first regional championship since 2004. The team qualified for next weekend’s NCAA Championships.

Junior Karissa Schweizer was once again the driving force for the Tigers, winning her fourth race of the year and first career individual regional championship with a 6K time of 19:54.4.

Junior Jamie Kempfer also placed in the top 10, finishing fifth with a time of 20:17.9, while seniors Nicole Mello and Teylar Adelsberger ran their best races of the season and earned 20th and 21st place, respectively. All four runners’ top 25 finishes earned them NCAA All-Midwest Regional honors.

Schweizer was Mizzou’s first NCAA Regional champion since 2003, finishing 6.7 seconds ahead of the next-closest runner. She ran 16 seconds faster than her previous personal record in the 6K, which she set at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Oct. 28.

The race was marked by drastic improvements for the Tigers across the board. At the Indiana State University Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute on Oct. 15, Kempfer ran a 21:23.8 6K. Since then, she has cut almost exactly 1:06 off her time, a remarkable improvement over a single cross-country season, let alone one month. She finished within one second of the third-place runner at the Regional race.

The Tigers were able to get the victory primarily by reducing the gap between Schweizer and the team’s third, fourth and fifth place runners that has existed throughout the season, as the team got impressive efforts out of Mello, Adelsberger and freshman Jordyn Kleve.

All three runners crushed their previous 6K best times. Mello ran a 20:44.3 6K, good for a 46.2 second improvement from her SEC Championships time two weeks ago and a 33.9 second improvement on her previous best time, which was set at the SEC Championships in 2015.

Adelsberger finished in 20:45.7, a 24.6 second improvement on her previous best time that she ran at the 2015 region meet. She also dropped 54 seconds from her time from two weeks ago at the SEC Championships.

Kleve had the most significant improvement of all the runners, dropping 58.1 seconds from her time two weeks ago to finish in 21:08.5. For perspective, Schweizer’s best 6K time her freshman year was 21:36.2.

Missouri was ranked No. 4 in the Midwest region entering the race and earned 23 votes in the Division I United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association National Coaches’ Poll for the week of Nov. 7. The win at regionals should propel the Tigers into the top 30 rankings for the first time this season, as they finished ahead of No. 12 Iowa State, No. 17 Oklahoma State, and No. 26 Minnesota.

"This is a historic day for our program,” coach Marc Burns said in a press release. “I am so proud of this team. They executed the game plan perfectly and believed in themselves all the way. We have been flirting with this type of performance all year and we finally put it together today. We hit on all cylinders and it was fun to watch.”

The Tigers will now set their sights on the NCAA Championships, which will take place in Terre Haute, Indiana on Nov. 19, and are looking to improve on the 2004 team’s 11th place finish.

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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