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Lady Bearcats track and field among nation’s best

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SBU’s Tabitha Weber leads a pack of runners at an indoor track meet earlier this season.

SBU women’s track and field team is ranked No. 5 in the most recent Division II U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. 

The season has seen the Lady Bearcats improve from seventh nationally, which previously tied for its highest-ever ranking, to fourth, its best ever placement. 

A week three poll dated Tuesday, Feb. 9, placed the Lady Bearcats fifth. 

The recognition is just a part of the recent success the team has seen. 

SBU’s men’s and women’s track programs competed in the Washburn Open indoor meet, where the Bearcats and Lady Bearcats broke a school record and garnered a pair of first place finishes. 

"This weekend we had some great performances," head coach Corey McElhaney said in an SBU news release. "I am proud of our teams for overcoming a lot of change and obstacles this season. We still have a lot of room for improvement in many areas but I feel like each week we are growing closer to our potential.” 

According to the release, the Lady Bearcats 2021 resume includes five top-five marks in Division II. The distance medley relay team of Tabitha Weber, Britney Clark, Alexis Barber and Elysia Burgos have the best time in the nation. Tamia Rayford and Britney Clark rank second and third, respectively, in the 60 meter run, and Meleah Ridenour has the second longest jump in the long jump and the fifth best score in the pentathlon. 

“Track and field is about believing in the process and seeing it through,” McElhaney said in the release. “Sometimes that means you have a couple of off days, but know a good day is coming if you keep believing in what you're doing.”

Bearcat basketball tops GLVC west

Southwest Baptist University men’s basketball is the top team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s western division. 

Despite a three-game losing streak, the 11-5 Bearcats are well ahead of second placed 8-8 Drury University. 

At 9-3, Southern Indiana University leads the eastern division, while 12-1 Truman State University and 12-4 University of Missouri St. Louis lead the central division. 

SBU’s three most recent losses came at the hands of Lindenwood University, McKendree University and UMSL, which is ranked No. 23 in Division II. 

Against McKendree, SBU suffered from a slow start, falling behind 17-2. 

Despite a game-leading 20 points from Quinn Nelson, SBU dropped the contest 77-64. 

The Bearcats have a chance to put the brakes on their current slide on Saturday, Feb. 13, against the University of Indianapolis. 

The game is at 3 p.m. in Indianapolis. 

Lady Bearcats now 4-10

SBU’s womens’ team stands at 4-10 after coming up just short in a close game against McKendree. 

The Lady Bearcats earlier this year broke loose from a multi-game losing streak to claim a trio of consecutive wins. 

The Lady Bearcats win column includes a 101-97 double overtime road win over Maryville. 

According to an SBU news release, the game saw 13 different lead changes, along with 13 ties. SBU’s Kyleigh Vaught had a season high 28 points to go along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds.

Men’s soccer to open season

SBU men’s soccer will open its delayed 2020-21 season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, against Rockhurst University in Kansas City. 

Coach Rick Daum told the BH-FP the team enters this season with 18 new members “hoping to change the trajectory of SBU soccer.”

The Bearcats finished 1-16 last year. 

“This is a very young team with many players who will log important time on the field early in their careers and get great experience as they grow up together,” he said. “We hope to dictate a certain style of play against weaker teams in the conference and show the teams at the top of the conference that we're a tough, gritty opponent.”

The team also features redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Will vanHoornbeek, a Bolivar High School graduate. 

Daum said the strategy should give the team a strong building block headed into a full season next year.

“The key to reaching players in a stressful COVID year is to show them you're invested in their success, development on the field, and we care about how they're doing as they go through it all,” he said. 

Women’s soccer to open season

BHS’ Reaghan Hancock is part of a roster of SBU women’s soccer players who also likely have improvement on their minds when the team opens its season at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, against Rockhurst University in Kansas City. 

Coach Stefan Skillman said one of his goals is growth and to “build upon the foundation, habits and style of play that was implemented during my first season.”

The Lady Bearcats finished last year 3-13-1. 

Skillman said he also hopes to see the team become a contender and qualify for the conference tournament. 

“To see growth, we have to develop players during training sessions and video sessions,” he said. “We then use film to develop self-awareness to teach them their areas of improvement.”

SBU lost its last matchup to Rockhurst 4-2 in September 2019.

Softball starts Feb. 26

SBU softball was picked to finish last in GLVC this year after a 7-12 finish in 2020. 

Coach Chad Kerr said that suits him just fine. 

The team’s nine returning players have improved, and the Lady Bearcats also feature 12 new players. 

“Everyone will be underestimating us, which works to our favor,” Kerr told the BH-FP. “We will play our best every game, and if we do, we’ll win a lot of games.”

The team’s roster also features Pleasant Hope High School graduate Abby Henson, a sophomore third baseman and infielder. 

Kerr said his goal for the group is to qualify for the GLVC tournament, which requires finishing in the conference’s top 8. 

“We are a new team, and the results will be different this year for SBU softball,” he said. 

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