Western tracks down the MIAA

Griffons to add track and field team in 2017 Missouri Western announced that it will start participating in track and field starting in the 2017. The school will also will participate in cross country. Athletic Director Kirk McGuffin said that this is something he has wanted since becoming the AD. “We always knew we wanted to add sports, but we knew we had to take care of some things first,” McGuffin said. The Missouri Western athletics department has been busy in recent years—adding the practice facility, building the Spring Sports Complex and the most recent renovations to Spratt Stadium. These are things that they knew they must take care of before they would be able to add any new sports. “We wanted to be sure that all 10 of our sports were on good footing first,” McGuffin said. Western’s enrollment has gone down steadily the last few years and the belief is that adding new sports will also increase enrollment.  “We could add bowling or sand volleyball, but you’re looking at 8, 9 kids” McGuffin said. “We want to add 50 or 60 kids.” By adding new sports, we will also be adding new costs to the athletic department. The school has spent over $30 million over the last few years and that number will drastically increase with these new sports. The addition of a cross country team will not have much start-up cost, but the track team will eventually need their own indoor facility. “We need to host meets at some point and our plan is to look north over by the pond,” McGuffin said. The question then becomes, where will the school get the money for another facility? “In time we plan to build the facilities with private dollars,” McGuffin said. The addition of more athletes means there will be more scholarships to give out each year. The school plans to give out 18 scholarships, divided up between the three sports. “That puts us right in the middle of the MIAA as far how many scholarships are given out,” McGuffin said. Colleges will use the track and field team as a way to save scholarships for their other sports. If the coaches have the right relationship, they may give a track scholarship out and then the football team may have that athlete on their team without using a scholarship on him. “The coaches that we have interviewed—that’s high on their list,” McGuffin said. “But you have to have the right relationship between coaches.” If things go as planned for McGuffin, they will have a new coach hired by Sept. 1. The coach will then start recruiting immediately for the 2017 season. The school will then start looking for the private donations needed, and there is the possibility they will look into using student fees. “We need more rec space, we need more gym space, field space as we grow,” McGuffin said. “We’re growing and we hope that this will help grow even more.”

Griffons relive a miracle

The story of the underdog has always been adored by the world and is constantly a major focus in Hollywood. Whether the underdog wins it all or falls short of the ultimate goal, the story becomes a legend. In 1982, Griffon softball wrote their own underdog story, eventually leading to a NAIA national championship victory. Western began their historic year with six straight losses, leaving the team to think that there was not much hope left in the season. With the team down after the losing streak, then head coach Rhesa Sumrell said something to the team that may have contributed to their turnaround season, according to former Griffon pitcher Wonda Berry. “I remember the coach telling us you have got to love to play and you all love to play the game, so you just need to play your game,” Berry said. “Then we got on a win and we just kept going and we were like gosh let’s see how far we can carry this through.” After the slow start the Griffons entered a hot streak and would carry their momentum into the NAIA District 16 tournament. They appeared unbeatable as they defeated Southwest Baptist 2-1 and William Woods twice by a score of 2-1 to win the District championship. Even though there was a slow start at the beginning of the season, Berry explains that everything started coming together during Districts and beyond. “It almost became a game of we can’t lose,” Berry said. “We just really started hitting and everything just came together, and it all came together at the right time too.” Winning their district qualified the Griffons to take their 24-14 record and go to Kearney, Nebraska for their first NAIA National Tournament. Unfortunately for Western, their time to shine on the national stage would be delayed by heavy rainfall. Although the rain hampered the tournament, Berry says that the Griffons had no trouble keeping their spirits up. “We had a pitcher in a dance class and she brought her tap shoes and would go into the bathroom on the tile and would tap all night long, we were like oh my gosh,” Berry said. “I remember Deena Murphy getting in a little helicopter for a kid and we kept putting quarters in and she was going up and down in the helicopter. It’s just little things like that where we really enjoyed what we were doing.” When the team wasn’t busy dancing or riding children’s toys, Berry explained that they would take grounders and practice on an asphalt road because the fields were too muddy to play on. Finally, the rain cleared and it was time for Western to continue down their road of success. The delays did not seem to have any effect on the Griffons during round one of the tournament. They dismantled Salem out of West Virginia by a score of 12-1. Western would not stop there as they would go on to win their next three games, defeating Wisconsin Parkside 1-0, St. Mary’s 4-3 and Oklahoma Baptist 2-0. The four game win streak was exactly what the Griffons needed to land them in the championship game of the tournament. With goose bumps and tears in her eyes Berry explained that only during Western’s four game win streak did it occur to the rest of the team that they have a shot at the national title. “We were just like oh my gosh we could win this,” Berry said. “When we just kept winning and we hadn’t lost yet I remember Brad, the coach at Kearney, saying I hope when Western loses they remember big girls don’t cry. I think when we saw that comment in the paper, we were like let’s win this thing, lets prove who we are and win this thing.” Rain once again delayed the final games of the tournament but would let up just long enough for the Griffons to face St. Francis for the title. Instead of having an epic down to the wire game, Western quickly dispatched St. Francis by a score of 5-0 clinching their historic national championship. Winning that game created a wave of shock throughout the whole team according to Berry. “We were just like we did it, we really just did this,” Berry said. “It’s almost like you’re sitting here and you’re watching it happen but it’s so unbelievable, it’s like we’re the champs, we’re number one.” That season not only brought a national championship to the team but it also lead to many members of the team being recognized for their great year including, Berry receiving Honorable Mention All-CSIC pitcher and Sumrell being named NAIA coach of the year. The 1982 NAIA National Champion Griffons prove that successful underdog stories are not only on the big screen. Their miraculous season will forever be a major part of Missouri Western history.

Western finishes top 10 in MIAA tournament

The Missouri Western Women’s Golf team finished fourth in the MIAA Championships. The Griffons had all five girls finish in the top 35 of the tournament. Freshman Shi Qing Ong finished tied for eighth in the tournament, shooting a 238. Ong’s best round was her final round, when she finished with a 73. Her score was the best of any golfer that round. Madison Romjue wasn’t far behind Ong, finishing 13th  in the tournament with a 244 in three rounds. Celine Lim finished with a 247 and Callie Wilson shot a 252. Coach Greg Dillon has been impressed with the way Ong has played all season. “You know I think that Shi Qing has a chance to win the Division II championship,” Dillon said. Lindenwood finished 12 strokes ahead of the Western for third place, but finished 10 strokes ahead of Central Missouri for fourth place. First place belonged to Northeastern State University, recording a 922. The second place team also reigns from Oklahoma. The Bronchos of Central Oklahoma recorded a score of 902. Baylee Price of Northeastern was the individual winner of the tournament. Price finished with a 219, giving the RiverHawk her fourth title of the season. Second place went to Central Missouri’s Elizabeth Leath. The women’s team will compete in the 2016 NCAA Central Super Regional in Axtell, Neb., May 2-4. “I believe the biggest challenge for us will be getting through that first weekend,” Dillon said. It is the women’s first trip to the tournament and their confidence is high that they can keep advancing in the tournament. “We just have to remember it’s one tournament, Dillon said. It’s a new season and opportunity for us.” The men’s golf team finished seventh in the men’s championship. Western recorded a 917 at Tiffany Greens Golf Club. “I thought we should have finished a little higher in the tournament," Dillon said. "We struggled early and the weather was really a factor.” The Griffon’s best score came from Corey Knight, recording a 223, good for 10th. Ryan Hand finished 22nd in the tourney with 229. Cole Roberts shot a 236 and Jakob Rudosky finished with a 237. “Ryan got behind early, but he battled back in the tournament,” Dillon said. Central Oklahoma won the tournament, swinging their way to an 882 team score. Lindenwood finished second, recording an 891 through three rounds. Blake Lammers of Lincoln was the individual winner, shooting a 210 through three rounds.

Griffons give seniors victorious send off

Sunday, April 24 was senior day for the Griffons. In their final home match of the season, Lindsay Beger, Denise Chiao, Sarah Giraldo and Meara Smith were able to go out in a big way against Lindenwood. In singles matches, both squads were neck and neck. Western claimed a win in the No. 1 spot when Lindenwood's Anna Barbasheva left the match due to injury. Yasmine El Ghazi won the match 6-3, 5-0. Sofia Aguilera took the No. 3 spot 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Joanna Abreu Roman took the No. 4 spot 6-1, 6-0. Head coach Shawn Becker was more than happy with how his squared performed in singles matches. "Yas [Yasmine], she would've won that second set 6-0 if it wasn't for the injury default," Becker said. "Yas was nothing less than impressive...Joanna, 6-0, 6-1, that match literally took 20 minutes...Sofia, she grew up from a first set where she didn't know what she was doing, to a second set where she was so determined, to a third set where she got distracted by something off court for one point. That little distraction, it scared her enough that she just ran the ship the rest of the way." The Griffons sealed their senior day victory over the Lions in doubles matches. Aguilera and El Ghazi took the No. 1 spot in an intense match. They started out down 6-3, and came out to win 9-7. Abreu Roman and Giraldo claimed the No. 2 spot 8-3. Becker believes that doubles was really what made the difference in their game. "Doubles was huge," Becker said. "Sarah and Joanna...they played doubles, and they won. When we work together, when we set each other up, Yas and Sofia are a scary doubles team...They knocked it out of the park." The Griffons took home a 5-4 victory over the Lions on senior day. "That was totally different than any of our other 5-4 matches this year," Becker said. "It was a huge momentum swing...They [Lindenwood] played Northwest so tough on Saturday and I was a little nervous about coming in. I didn't know how hungry they'd be coming into the match. Becker was thankful for the support shown to his squad on senior day. "A huge shout out to the administration that was there from all over campus," Becker said. "We had the International Student office out there. We had Gold Coat members we'd never seen at tennis matches before. So, that was huge." Western has locked a spot in the MIAA Tournament. They will head to Springfield, Missouri on April 29-May 1.

Conference championship hopes alive

The Griffons won three of their four games this past week, clinching a playoff spot and finding themselves just two games out of first place. With seven games left in the regular season, there is plenty of time for the team to win the conference championship—with three of those games against first place Central Missouri. Western started last week by welcoming the Bearcats of Northwest to the Griffon Baseball Field by winning 12-2. The offense continued to do what it has done all season -- that is, score a lot of runs. The Griffons scored eight runs in the first two innings. Infielder Landon Mason stretched his hitting streak to 20 games in the first inning and scored a run. Center fielder Nick Gawley recorded four hits in four at-bats with seven RBIs and a homerun. Fellow outfielder Kody Matthews also had a good day at the dish with three hits and two RBIs. Pitcher Tyler Tuepker received his first win of the season, going three innings and allowing just two runs. Pitchers David Anderson, Jared Lloyd and Mike Calimeno then combined for eight shutout innings. Coach Buzz Verduzco loves anytime his team can take care of the Bearcats. “Anytime you can go up there and take care of them, that’s a good thing,” Verduzco said. The Griffons hosted Nebraska-Kearney this past weekend at Missouri Western. Western won the first game by a score of 10-3 and took two of three from UNK. Gawley’s bat did not cool down in this game with three hits and four RBIs. Mason, the MIAA’s leader in batting average, collected three hits in the game. Pitcher Richard Peoples had a solid game on the mound, allowing three runs in seven innings. Game two of the series would go to the Lopers 2-1. The normally powerful Griffons offense was held to just six hits in the game. Mason’s hitting streak ended at 21 games and the team’s only RBI came from Matthews in the second inning. Pitcher Weston Caindec received the loss, but pitched well, allowing just two runs in seven and a third innings. Caindec allowed six hits and recorded four strikeouts. “Our pitching staff has been so good lately,” Verduzco said. The Griffons got back to their winning ways in the rubber match of the series, defeating the Lopers 8-2 on Sunday. Second baseman David Glaude led the Griffon offense with four hits and three RBIs. Third baseman Jeremy Alvarado had just one hit in the game, but that one hit was his 13th homerun of the season. First baseman Cosimo Cannella added an RBI giving him 61 so far this season, good for second in the conference. The pitching for Western was strong once again. Alex Clavet went six and a third and allowed just two runs. Preston Bailey pitched two and two-thirds and received his fourth save of the season. “This pitching staff is more dialed in than they’ve been all year,” Verduzco said. Western played their final game of the year against the Bearcats of Northwest Tuesday afternoon. It was one that the Griffons will want to forget as the team dropped the game 6-0 and were no-hit by the Bearcats' starting pitcher. The loss gives Central Missouri a three-game lead over Western. The first place Mules have lost two in a row, giving Western the opportunity to move up in the MIAA standings. Central Missouri is 15-3 at home this season, but the Griffons are 21-3 on the road. The series will showcase the best offense in the MIAA and the conference’s best pitching staff. The Mule’s staff has allowed just 156 runs this season, while the Western offense has outscored the Central Missouri offense by more than 100 runs. “These championships are hard to get. It takes so many things for this opportunity to happen,” Verduzco said.