December 2, 2020

Women’s cross-country looks to chase down second consecutive SLIAC championship

Kelly Parsley, coach of Webster University’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams, likes what he has seen in his brief time with the Gorloks. He inherits a women’s squad coming off its first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in Webster history. Parsley wants the team, which returns its top five runners, to contend once again for the SLIAC title.

“I would like to bring back another conference title, especially with a large group of those girls coming back this year,” Parsley said.

Freshman Jessica Tautphaeus runs alongside senior David Koppelmann during practice at Blackburn Park on Tuesday, Aug. 28. Tautphaeus is one of two freshmen to join women's cross-country team in 2012. PHOTO BY MEGAN FAVIGNANO.

Leading the women’s side will be senior Jane McKibben. McKibben is the only senior woman this season. She said she feels the pressure of the position, but knows her role on the team as a runner and a leader.

“It’s my last year, so I don’t feel like I’ll end the season well if I don’t make some new records for myself,” McKibben said. “I feel like the pressure is on to not only make a good impression on the freshmen that just came in, but also to the other girls who I have been running with that I can go back to running faster times and such. I need to be able to hold the fort at my own position as far as competing, but on top of that still keep the positive morale high.”

Junior Heather Heisse returns to the Gorloks, and Parsley said she is “in the best shape of her life.”

“She has been in the top of the conference for the last two years, and I expect amazing things from her,” Parsley said. “She could possibly win conference this year; that’s how good she looks.”

Junior Julie Greenough led Webster runners at the SLIAC championship in 2011 with a 24:27 mark. However, Parsley said Greenough is nursing an ankle injury, but will come back stronger when she returns.

Another injured runner is sophomore Kassandra Ochoa. Ochoa, who was slated to be a top-five runner for Webster, will miss some time this year. When Ochoa returns, Parsley said he expects her to compete for a top-four spot on the team.

“She’s pretty talented,” Parsley said. “I also think (freshman) Jessica Tautphaeus and (freshman) Mia Stefani will both step up and contend for that fifth runner role.”

Parsley said despite the small numbers on the women’s side, they will be tough to beat in a conference championship.

“What made them strong last year in the conference meet, and will make us strong this year, is our split,” Parsley said. “When I say that, that means our runners — the top five runners score in cross-country — our split from our No. 1 to our No. 4 runner last year was only 11 seconds. That’s really tough to beat in a conference championship. That’s what we have to focus on.”

McKibben said seeing the conference champions banner hanging in Grant Gymnasium provides a boosted encouragement for the squad this year.

“We know we’ve done it before, so we really have that fighting chance to do it again,” McKibben said. “I definitely believe, as long as we run our times and get better, we can win it again.”

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