CEDAR FALLS — The last time the University of Northern Iowa hosted the Missouri Valley Conference cross country championship, it was just another day for junior high student Kelsey Kirchoff of Denver.
Saturday, she had a different feeling about the event at Walters Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls.
“I just had this feeling all day that we were going to finish at the top,” Kirchoff said.
And just what the Panthers did, surprising pre-meet favorite Bradley for the title, 52-64.
“When I was coming down the stretch, I knew that there were two UNI girls behind me and Ashley (Norem) was up front, and I just had a good feeling about where we were,” said Kirchoff.
The two behind Kirchoff were MVC Freshman of the Year Hannah Truniger and junior Brette Correy, who finished 9th and 10th respectively, while Norem claimed the sixth spot and Kirchoff stretched the tape in seventh. Lucy Conroy added a 20th-place finish to clinch the victory.
“This was such a special day because I had a lot of family here cheering me on,” said Kirchoff. “And it is just unimaginable what we have accomplished as a team. I feel proud to be a part of this, and the future is very promising with so many young talented athletes here.”
UNI head coach Dave Paulsen couldn’t have asked for any more from his squad.
“It is one of those things where you visualize it happening and then to see it, it was great,” said Paulsen, who also was honored as MVC Women’s Coach of the year. “We come in to run as a pack and had the mentality to win, and they deserve it with all the hard work they have put in.”
The men’s field was dominated by Bradley, which placed five runners among the top eight. UNI, paced by senior Zach Buchheit, finished sixth with 132 points.
“Today was not about personal goals, it was about team finishes,” Buchheit said. “Lately, we have been running just 20 seconds apart from our number one to number five guys. Some days you run good and then there are days you don’t. Every day is different and today we were not as strong as we could have been.” added Buchheit.
MVC cross country
TEAM STANDINGS — 1. Northern Iowa 52, 2. Bradley 64, 3. Wichita State 82, 4. Indiana State 86, 5. Illinois State 99, 6. Loyola 167, 7. Southern Illinois 198, 8. Missouri State 223, 9. Drake 238, 10. Evansville 251.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS — 1. Rebekah Topham (WSU) 17:24.8, 2. Ariel Michalek (Ill. St.) 17:33.6, 3. S. Brooke Moore (Ind. St.) 17:38.4, 4. Emilea Finley (WSU) 17:38.8, 5. Hannah Witzcak (Brad) 17:45.1, 6. Ashley Norem (UNI) 17:50.8, 7. Kelsey Kirchoff (UNI) 17:53.0, 8. Sidney Hirsch (WSU) 17:55.4, 9. Hannah Truniger (UNI) 18:03.5, 10. Brette Correy (UNI) 18:03.5, 20. Lucy Conroy (UNI) 18:27.4
TEAM STANDINGS — 1. Bradley 24, 2. Wichita State 82, 3. Indiana State 84, 4. Illinois State 108, 5. Loyola 131, 6. Northern Iowa 132, 7. Drake 155, 8. Southern Illinois 207, 9. Evansville 280.
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS — 1. Reed Fischer (Drake) 24:31.8, 2. Michael Ward (Brad) 24:38.4, 3. Jake Hoffert (Brad) 24:40.4, 4. Kyle Mattes (Ill. St.) 24:42.5, 5. Patrick Campbell (Brad) 24:43.9, 6. Taylor Floydmews (Brad) 24:57.7, 7. Akis Medrano (Ind. St.) 24:58.9, 8. Caleb Beck (Brad) 25:03.9, 9. Alex Baker (Loyola) 25:08.2, 10. Ugis Jocis (WSU) 25:12.2, 15. Zach Buchheit (UNI) 25:32.0, 21. Dylan Eigenbereger (UNI) 25:46.7, 25. Bailey Wetherell (UNI) 26:00.1, 36. CJ May (UNI) 26:41.1, 37. Ethan Smith (UNI) 26:41.3.