After a disappointing end to last year’s season, the experienced Missouri State cross-country team is ready for a new season.

The Bears’ less-than-stellar performance at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships dropped them one spot in the standings from where they finished the year before.

Head coach Jordan Fife said he knows the team is better than what they showed at the conference meet, but there were also some outside factors contributing to that. 

“We didn’t run to our full potential that day, but we know we are better than that and are capable of being closer to the front,” Fife said. “We also had a little bit of sickness floating around late in the season that could have contributed to our disappointing performance.

“We have to do a better job of taking care of ourselves, and we need a little more depth to make it up if that happens again.” 

Fife said he sends mileage and workouts to the runners throughout the summer to make sure they keep improving, and he knows they’ll keep each other accountable. 

“They know how important the summer mileage is for their success in the fall — and ultimately the whole year, so I trust them to get the work done,” Fife said.

With an older and more experienced team, the Bears are confident that experience will help them in the upcoming season. 

“We are a very experienced team, so nothing should surprise us,” Fife said. “We know we can be one of the best teams in the conference if we actually race like it. Our biggest expectation is staying confident.” 

Seniors Jordyn Capra, Erica Wollmering, and Paityn Stagner as well as junior Grace Breiten and sophomore Edna Dar are returning for the Bears.

All of those Bears competed at the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 9, 2018. The team placed 22nd out of 35 teams.

The Bears had run on the regional course in the two meets prior to the NCAA competition. They raced at the Bradley Pink Classic as well as the MVC Championships that were held in Peoria, Illinois.

A few incoming freshmen will be joining the cross-country team as well. Fife said they will focus mostly on getting used to the college stage with consistent training as well as working on time management and balancing everyday life. 

Fife said all of the older runners have the potential to be a team leader next season, but especially Grace Breiten.

“Any number of our juniors and seniors have the ability to be a leader and set a good example for everyone around them,” Fife said. “Grace Breiten will be a leader by default based on her performances thus far and having been our No. 1 runner already.” 

In her two seasons at Missouri State, Breiten has already clocked in the sixth fastest 5-kilometer time in program history at 17:21.67. 

Fife said the main goal for next season is simply to just keep improving. 

“We’ve gone to the same meets for a few years now, so it’s easy to be able to compare one year to the next with our times and team places,” Fife said.

The cross-country Bears start their season on Aug. 30 at Mizzou.