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Spalding Edges Out Field in Close Race for Title

Spalding Edges Out Field in Close Race for Title

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The Spalding University women's cross country team edged out the rest of the field on Saturday to capture the 2015 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship. In what turned out to be the closest race in conference history, Spalding compiled 60 total team points to beat out second-place Greenville College by one point. In addition Westminster College finished third with 62 points and Webster University finished with 66 points. The previous closest finish was four points, accomplished three times. This year's field also saw the top four teams finish within six points of each other, besting the previous closest finish for the top four teams of 15 points in the 2010 season.

Runner of the Year
Valerie Martin

This is the first conference championship for the Golden Eagles women's cross country team, after finishing second last year and improving from a sixth place finish in the two years prior. It was the depth of the team that helped Spalding to victory, headed by Kayla Payne's third place finish. Payne completed the 6K course in a time of 23:31 and was joined in the top ten by teammates Jenna Johnstone, fifth place with a time of 23:36, and Rachel Cowles, who placed 8th with a time of 23:46. Megan Ward picked up a top 25 finish, placing 18th with a time of 24:48. Fellow Golden Eagles Natalie Shirley, Kara Weaver, Hannah Eldridge, Rachel Herrald, and Kelsie Suttle all added to the team's victory.

On the individual side of the race Webster University's Valerie Martin claimed the SLIAC title, winning the race in a time of 23:06. Martin jumped out to the early lead on the rain soaked course and was able to maintain her pace throughout the race. Martin eased her way to the finish line, finishing 18-seconds ahead of the closest competitor. Martin becomes just the second Gorlok to win the SLIAC individual title, joining Rita Ross who captured the title in 1993.

Greenville College took second place in the race as Molly Works followed up last year's third-place finish with a second-place finish this year; finishing the course in a time of 23:22. Joining Works in the top ten was teammate Brooke Goodyear, placing seventh with a time of 23:39.

Westminster finished third overall as they had a grouping near the top ten with four runners 

Newcomer of the Year
Jessica Kuykendall

taking places nine through 12. Brier Skogsberg led the pack, placing ninth, with a time of 23:47 and was followed by Jessica Kuykendall, Taylor Howard, and Madison Zack.

Webster was fourth in the field with Megan Illig joining Martin among the leaders of the race. Illig finished sixth overall with a time of 23:39.

Principia College finished fifth as Kyla Pelletier led the way with a 13th place finish, completing the course in 24:06. Fontbonne University placed sixth and was led by Olivia Beggs' 15th place finish (24:14). Blackburn College took a seventh place finish as Kaitlyn Pugh finished 47th in a time of 30:06. Eureka College did not field a complete team and did not have a team score but saw Riley Francis place 42nd with a time of 29:03.

Following the race the conference held the All-Conference and individual awards ceremony. Webster's Valerie Martin was named the 2015 Women's Cross Country Runner of the Year while Jessica Kuykendall took home Newcomer of the Year honors. The Spalding University coaching staff, led by Bradley Sowder, was named the Coach of the Year and Greenville College received the SLIAC Team Sportsmanship Award.

In addition the following runners were named to the 2015 SLIAC All-Sportsmanship Team: Allison Matt, Blackburn; Tatum Dowell, Eureka; Claire Becker, Fontbonne; Shirley Estes, Greenville; Gabriella Burns, Principia; Rachel Harreld, Spalding; Meghan Illig, Webster; Claire Gibby, Westminster. For a complete list of the 2015 award winners click HERE

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