If the UAFS women’s cross country team was in need of a little boost of confidence, they got that and then some during the recent University of the Ozarks Invitational.
The Lady Lions dominated the six-team 5k event held at Clarksville, Ark., on Sept. 28 to win the meet and make history. It was the first win in the program’s five-year history.
"Not a lot of people get to say they made history, whether it be in sports or in life. It is a very special thing to be a part of," first-year UAFS coach Lauren Unger said. "I am so proud of my girls for accomplishing something that never has been done before here. They are setting the tone for what type of program UAFS cross country will be and is becoming."
UAFS placed four runners in the Top 5 of the 43-runner field that featured runners from host University of the Ozarks, John Brown University, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkansas Tech University and the University of Arkansas-Monticello.
"Winning the meet was a definite confidence booster which could not have come at a better time as we approach the conference meet," Unger said. "It really gave the girls a rejuvenation of excitement and energy and gave them added encouragement to continue to work hard in practice."
It was a historical feat in more ways than one.
Junior Kelsea Geschwentner won the event with a time of 18:52, and the Garden City (Kan.) Community College transfer became the first Lady Lion to win a meet. It also was the third consecutive meet for the McCook, Neb., native to lead the Lady Lions.
As a result, Geschwentner was named Heartland Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week.
"She definitely deserved the win," Unger said. "She works hard day in and day out and puts forth 100 percent effort in all that she does. It was great to see her hard work pay off. The great thing about Kelsea is that she is never satisfied, and she always wants to strive to do better, which is exciting to see as a coach."
The Lady Lions, along with the Lions, have been idle since winning the University of the Ozarks Invitational but will compete on Saturday in the 5k Oklahoma Baptist University Invitational at the Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee.
It will be the first of two final regular-season meets for UAFS, which also will compete in the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Invitational on Oct. 19 in Little Rock. Unger said the Lady Lions look to build off the momentum from their first win during these final two weeks before competing in the conference tournament on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Mansfield, Texas.
"As a team, we are happy about winning the meet, but we do not want that to be the highlight of our season," Unger said. "We know that every meet we race is working towards the bigger picture, and that is the conference meet. Although we are very pleased with our performance, we are still staying humble and hungry."