Stephens cross country team takes positive attitude

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 10:12 p.m. CDT
From left, Ivi Lewis, Emily Mendoza and Kelsi Simpson run mile repeats during a Stephen's College cross-country practice Wednesday. The team's next meet will be in Chicago on the Oct. 1 weekend. Team members are working to increase their speed this year.

COLUMBIA – Lindsey Jo Martin, a freshman cross country runner at Stephens College, always seems to have a smile on her face. It's part of a positive attitude that seems to motivate her teammates.

Senior runner Kelsi Simpson said Martin's attitude has had an effect on the Stars' program, which is perhaps the best team she has been a part of while she has been at Stephens.

This season's Stephens squad is twice as large as last year with eight runners. Half of these are four strong freshmen who come from high schools with competitive programs. With the addition of a new workout plan, all of the runners seem to have positive attitudes.

In previous years, Simpson said the Stephens runners had never worked to improve their speed. This season has been different.

“This year we’re doing speed workouts Monday, Wednesday and Friday and mileage Tuesday and Thursday,” Simpson said. “If we don’t have a race on weekends, we do mileage then. We have a nice balance, so it’ll make it easier when we run shorter distances, and speed will make us run faster.”

Martin, who has been running since the fifth grade, has been helping plan workouts with Stars coach Bill Bixon, who had never coached cross country before taking over the program last season. Martin says they plan workouts for each runner and adjust mileage as needed depending on the runner's ability.

The workouts seem to be helping.

The Stars’ second-place finish at the Maryville University Cross Country Classic last weekend is the best that Simpson said she has seen the team perform in her four years at Stephens.

Martin, who was named this week's American Midwest Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week, has been the top Stephens runner at both meets this season. She said she is looking forward to more success for the team.

“I want to see a lot more girls coming in who are like the ones that we’ve gotten this year: competitive, willing to work, really driven, happy, just fun to be around,” Martin said.

Emily Mendoza,, Ivi Lewis, Tara Chronister and Martin make up the Stars' freshmen group. Sophomores Dani Kelley and Jenny Thompson are new to the team, too. Simpson and Ariel Christman are returning seniors..

Simpson said she’s happy to finally see a team that gets along well and has bonded and that she expects the freshmen to lead the team to success in the coming years.

“I really think it’s just about attitude,” Simpson said. “I think that’s really it. And just having a positive attitude and being supportive and encouraging of everyone on the team.”

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