While other Western students enjoyed their spring breaks on tropical beaches or family vacations, members of the Missouri Western Shotgun Club traveled to two shooting competitions in Lincoln, Nebraska and Gypsum, Kansas. The weather was cold, rainy and miserable for both competitions, but that didn’t stop the team from successfully representing Missouri Western according to club president, Matt Scholz. “Weather does impact performance… but I feel great about the performance of Missouri Western's shooters. We don't have that solid of a recruiting base, we don't have a full time coach, and watching these members grow from where they started and shooting at the competitive levels they did allows me to look forward to the future,” Scholz said. Unlike other schools Missouri Western competes against, Western is one of the few self-sponsored teams. Schools like Fort Hayes and Lindenwood are school-recognized athletic teams who receive scholarships, have full-time coaches, and have official recruitment of experienced shooters. Most of the costs from shotgun shells, practice and travel are also covered by the institutions. Since MWSC is a club, not a recruited team, anyone of any skill level can join and learn the different shooting disciplines. Members can also leave without repercussions if necessary. This was part of the original mission set out by Scholz when he founded the club in 2013 and is something he hopes will continue once he has graduated. First-year member, Byron Hahn, has benefitted greatly from the club’s open enrollment. “I feel I have come a long way since I first started shooting sports. Having a great coach like Matt really helps because he has shot competitively for many years, which allows him to teach me, as well as others, on how to improve on each discipline we are shooting,” said Hahn. While the MWSC may seem to have an institutional handicap compared to other schools, Western is not an obsolete team at competitions. “Missouri Western continues to run with the middle of the pack, with some individuals sticking out as top 10 competitors, and even as a team reaching the top quarter,” Scholz said. For example, in the Lincoln shoot, Freshman Taylor Houx tied for first place in the female trap shooting event. Vice-president and founding member Zach Evans foresees top scores like Houx’s becoming more prevalent as the team continues to advance. He argues that this can only be done through increased practice and competitions, which can be expensive. Scholz shares this similar opinion as Evans. “I would like to get more funding and have the club start assisting with paying for practice for the future. Practice is what makes perfect, and if we can work these kinks out at practice instead of during the critical first rounds at a competition, we can get that foot in the door to stay a top quarter team, and maybe even begin winning some events,” Scholz said. Overall, Scholz has already seen improvement and growth from every shooter and is excited to keep the club moving forward in skills and competitions. The club's next competition is April 16th at KCTA, Smithville Lake. Missouri Western also has a shooting range on west campus that is open to the public Thursday and Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. if anyone is interested in learning firearm safety and shooting sports.
It is the goal of every university to have the best facilities that it can, whether they’re academic buildings or athletic. Missouri Western State University Director of Athletics Kurt McGuffin believes it is a constant competition between the schools at each level. “We want to be the best; it’s all about keeping up with the Jones’s,” McGuffin said. It has become a war; a war that doesn’t take place on the field or the court. The battle for supremacy is not the number of trophies you have, but the size of the building that your trophy room is in. Birth of the MIAA The MIAA was established in 1912, and only the University of Central Missouri and Northwest Missouri State University remain in the conference. It was originally known as the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That was until 1989 when Washburn University and Pittsburg State University joined the conference that it then changed to what it is known as today, the Mid-America Athletic Association. The MIAA has been called home by many different colleges and universities throughout its history. Since it was assembled, 15 schools have joined and left the conference. Schools such as William Jewell, Missouri State and the Missouri University of Science and Technology have gone on to other conferences. Where the Conference is Today Today, the conference holds 14 members. It stretches across Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas. The University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State University are its newest members, joining in 2014. The conference has benefited greatly with the addition of the new schools. Bob Boerigter took over as Conference Commissioner in 2010, and he believes that it has helped tremendously with scheduling. “In a number of different sports, a number of our institutions were having trouble filling their schedules,” Boerigter said. The expansion has helped the conference spread its name across Midwest. Doing this gives schools a better opportunity at reeling in recruits who are looking to play in a bigger, more prestigious conference. “It has helped expand the MIAA footprint and the MIAA brand throughout our region,” Boerigter said. Mine is Bigger than Yours A picture is worth a thousand words, but a new video board is worth a whole lot more. This has become the norm in sports across not only the United States, but around the world. Schools across the MIAA have added new video boards to their stadiums and arenas. Northwest Missouri State, Pittsburg State, Missouri Southern, Emporia State and Northeastern State have all added or upgraded their video boards. After the renovations are completed, Missouri Western will have a board that is not only the biggest in Division II football, but bigger than the boards at University of Kansas and the University of Missouri. Missouri Western head football coach Jerry Partridge knows the importance of having the best facilities. “You know it shouldn’t play a part in a recruit’s decision,” Partridge said. “But it does, they want to know they’re going to be playing in something nice.” In the fall of 2016, the MIAA will have the three biggest video boards in D-II football. The University of Central Oklahoma video board is 1,225 square foot, good for No. 3 in the country. The second largest sits in Pittsburg, Kansas. Pittsburg State also updated their video board, not only in the football stadium, but in their basketball arena and at their baseball field. Northwest Missouri State University athletic director Mel Tjeerdsma believes it’s all centered around recruiting. “There is no doubt, from a recruiting standpoint, that when somebody does something, you feel like you have to one-up them,” Tjeerdsma said. Turf Wars The Houston Astros were the first sports franchise to play on a surface other than natural grass. It was in 1966 when “Astroturf” was put into the newly constructed Astro Dome. The turf went mainstream in the 1970’s across the United States and Canada and is still used frequently today. Today though, most facilities have switched to field turf. It was first introduced in 1999 at the University of Nebraska and, soon after, many collegiate and professional programs picked it up. The turf is much softer and more durable than the Astroturf that was used throughout the late 1900s. The artificial turf is much easier to maintain and safer for the athletes playing on the surface. Every school across the MIAA uses field turf in their football stadiums. The installation of the artificial grass cost the school roughly $800,000. Fort Hays State University, Missouri Western and Northeastern State have all added new turf to their stadiums. The playing surfaces don’t stop at football. Pittsburg State recently added new turf to their indoor baseball facility, spending $1.1 million on the turf. Fort Hays recently spent $7,500 on their soccer field, while Northeastern State spent $40,700 to replace the natural grass at their soccer complex. The Cost of Beauty One of the nicest places to be in any stadium or arena is the press box. They’re suites built for those of us who choose to sit amongst each other and report on the action taking place on the playing surface. These boxes are made for media, coaches, owners and for those who just do not want to sit out in the elements. It is the crown jewel of almost all stadiums, even though it rarely, if ever, has any sort of impact on the game itself. Northwest Missouri State tore-down its west grandstand in 2001. The project was completed in 2003 with 10 new suites added to their press box, along with a whole new grandstand. “Renovations make the conference more competitive; we can’t complain about what we have,” Tjeerdsma said. “You just have to make the most out of what you have.” Following suit are institutions like Missouri Western. The Griffons are in the process of renovating their own press box. With the field surface, video board and the addition of new suites, the total cost will reach $11.6 million. One of the newcomers to the conference is the University of Nebraska-Kearney. UNK entered the conference in 2012 and has slowly adjusted to the cost of playing in a bigger conference. The university recently spent $700,000 on seating for their basketball arena and another $500,000 on their football locker rooms. Athletic Director Paul Plinske knows that his athletic facilities must improve in order to keep up with the rest of the conference. “We’re trying to make advancements so that we can look the part as an MIAA school,” Plinske said. UNK also spent $350,000 on branding, and feel like that is a big part of fitting in with the rest of the conference. “If you don’t brand, you just don’t look the part,” Plinske said. Another of the conference's newbies recently built a $17 million basketball arena. Northeastern State added their arena in 2013, right before entering the MIAA. It may not have the prestige of the William L. White Auditorium at Emporia State, but it is one of the more impressive venues in the conference. Practice Makes for Expensive Buildings Like video boards and luxurious press boxes, building a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility seems to be a must-have in sports in 2016. Missouri Western built their practice facility in 2010, with a little help from the Kansas City Chiefs. The $13.5 million facility not only serves as a place for the football team to practice, but gives the other sports an opportunity to practice indoors as well. In 2013, Fort Hays built their own practice facility. The building cost $4.2 million, $1 million of that was donated by alumni. Pittsburg State soon after built a $13 million facility. Athletic Director Jim Johnson believes strongly in having the best facilities possible. “It's what you have to do, keep them as up-to-date as possible,” Johnson said. Missouri Southern completed their indoor facility project in 2015. The field house is a $9 million building that contains locker rooms for multiple sports, a training room and an alumni event center. The Spring Sports Football and basketball may generate the most revenue for these universities, but the spring sports are just as important. Over the last few years, multiple schools across the conference have put money into either their existing baseball fields or, in the case of Missouri Southern and Missouri Western, built on-campus fields. Missouri Western built the Spring Sports Complex. The complex has two fields, one for softball and one for baseball. Both dugouts are lighted and heated for those cold weather games. Before the complex, Western was forced to play their games at Phil Welch Stadium. The project cost $7 million and was completed in March of 2011. Missouri Southern shared the same problems as Missouri Western. Before building their $2.5 million stadium in 2015, the Lions had to play their games in the downtown ballpark in Joplin. This made travel difficult not only for the players, but for those fans wanting to attend the games. The new stadium holds the facilities necessary to give their players proper treatment when needed. Fort Hays replaced their artificial turf infield along with new fencing for the backstop and outfield. There biggest project was replacing the scoreboard in the outfield. Emporia State spent $180,000 in upgrading their baseball stadium. Northeastern State spent $128,525 on their spring sports facilities and fields. They added irrigation systems to their baseball fields, updated the locker rooms and added new press boxes to their baseball and softball fields. In March, they will finish a resurfacing project on their tennis courts, costing $25,000. The school spent just over $23,000 on their soccer complex as well. The Rise in Revenue The amount of money generated in college athletics can be staggering.The MIAA generated $53.2 million in revenue in 2010, $59.3 million in 2011, $64.6 million in 2012 and $71.3 million in 2014. This seems like a lot of money, but in order to generate revenue, you have to have a product that earns that revenue. The MIAA does not profit much from these revenues though. The biggest profit came in 2014 when the difference was $2,037,600. The conference benefited from the addition of the Oklahoma schools, even with the additional money it cost to travel there. The conference is in as good a shape as it has ever been. The conference feels like the schools they have added, and those that were already in the conference, are here to stay. “At this particular point, we feel pretty good about where we are,” Boerigter said. “So, we do feel that people are committed to where we are.” Boerigter even spoke of the possibility of adding two more schools, generating more revenue and making one of the country’s strongest Division II conferences even stronger.
The weather in northwest Missouri has been anything but consistent over the last few weeks. The same cannot be said about the baseball team, which has been hot as of late, winning 15 of their last 18. The Griffons won all four of their games last week, starting with a 6-5 victory over No. 15 Emporia State University. The Griffons trailed by one heading into the ninth inning. Infielder Landon Mason tied the game with a double down the line, scoring outfielder Michael Babbitt. Emporia then loaded the bases on an intentional walk for first baseman Cosimo Cannella. Cannella then sent a deep fly ball to center to score the winning run. Head coach Buzz Verduzco was proud of his team’s effort. “We have this through the course of this season, this never give up attitude,” Verduzco said. Mason led Western with three hits in five at-bats and outfielder Nick Gawley added a homerun for the Griffons. Pitcher Preston Bailey blanked the Hornets in the eighth and ninth to earn his third win of the year. “They’re a good team and it doesn’t get any easier,” Verduzco said. Western then started a three-game series in Tahlequah, OK against Northeastern State University. The Griffons jumped on the RiverHawks early, up 7-0 after four innings. Western scored runs in the first, third and fourth inning helping pitcher Richard Peoples earn his fourth win of the season, going six innings and yielding just three runs on four hits. Pitcher Weston Caindec earned his first save of the year in the 7-4 victory. “Our pitching staff is finally really starting to come around,” Verduzco said. The Griffons’ offense had 10 hits in the game and had three players with two-hit games. Cannella added a three-run homerun in the fourth inning, his eighth of the year. “We hit the ball a little bit, which makes it a lot easier to pitch,” Verduzco said. Western won game two of the series 13-9. For the ninth time this season the Griffons’ offense scored more than 10 runs. Western pitcher Conner Schwienebart earned his first victory of the year, though he allowed four runs in five innings of work. Trailing 6-2 in the top of the fifth, the offense decided it was their time to shine. They came alive, scoring eight runs in the inning to take a 10-6 lead. Outfielder Orencio Fisher had his second straight multi-hit game, going three for five with three RBIs and two homeruns. Mason and third baseman Jeremy Alvarado each added two RBIs in the game. Jared Lloyd started on the mound for Western, but was pulled after allowing four runs in two innings. The Griffons pounded the RiverHawks in the final game of the series, 21-5. The 21 runs are a season high for the team. The team had 24 hits in the game, four short of the school record 28. Western actually trailed 4-1 after two innings, before going on a 20-1 run, with eight of those runs coming in the eighth inning. Fisher continued his hot streak with three hits and an RBI. Outfielder Alex Heuring went four for six with five RBIs and two homeruns. Cannella went four-for-four with five RBIs and crossed the plate four times. Even Jones started on the mound for the Griffons, allowing five runs in five innings of work. Jones improved to 4-0 on the season. Alex Clavet, Blaine Werth and Caindec combined for three shutout innings. With their four victories last week, the Griffons improved to 19-8 overall and 11-5 in the MIAA. Western is tied for third-place with the University of Central Oklahoma and their five straight wins are the best in the conference. The Griffons will host Lindenwood University in a three-game series starting Friday at the Spring Sports Complex. Friday evening’s game will start at 6:00 pm and then the two teams will meet at 1:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. “If we can continue to play like we have been, then I think we can do pretty well the rest of the season,” Verduzco said.
The Griffons began their three-school six game road trip last Friday with a double header against the Lindenwood Lions, followed by a double header against the Lincoln Blue Tigers and ended Tuesday with a double header against the rival Northwest Bearcats. Head coach Jen Trotter felt confident about her team’s position going into the road streak. “We felt pretty good about where we were and how we were swinging the bats and to get back into conference play, we were really looking forward to this weekend,” Trotter said. Although the team was confident going into the trip they came out flat in the first game against Lindenwood. Western took a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning but Lindenwood clawed back while holding off the Griffons. They scored six runs and blanked Western in fourth through seventh inning to win 6-4. The Griffons piled up 10 hits including a homerun by first baseman Kailey Green, but still fell short. Trotter believes that struggling fundamentally led to the loss. “We just did not have our best effort, we didn’t take care of the ball in the circle very well,” Trotter said. “We just didn’t look very sharp.” Western bounced back in game two, scoring six runs in the first inning, starting with a two run homer from second baseman Paige Shifflett. That first inning would set the pace for an 11-5 victory for the Griffons. Shifflett added a double to accompany her homerun and drove in two RBIs in the game. Pitcher Shyanne Saladino got the win, pushing her record to 12-3. Next Western set their sights on the Lincoln Blue Tigers where the Griffons had no trouble dominating. Game one of the double header only lasted five innings thanks to a 10-0 lead by Western. Pitcher Janie Smith sported a no hitter until the last inning when a grounder towards Green got through and counted for the Blue Tigers only hit. Trotter felt that the missed no hitter was the only down side to their win. “That was disappointing because she was that close to throwing a no hitter,” Trotter said. “I think Kailey Green probably owes her lunch or something.” Smith recorded the game one win and went on to pitch the majority of game two. The Griffons kept their foot on the gas in the second game, once again shutting out the Blue Tigers with a score of 8-0. The road trip was rounded up against the Bearcats of Northwest and in game one Western continued their shutout streak. Both teams were held scoreless until the fifth inning when the Griffons tacked on three runs courtesy of center fielder Morgan Rathmann’s single and short stop Shelbie Atwell’s double. They scored their last run in the sixth inning and went on to take a 4-0 victory over the Bearcats. Northwest came out on fire in the final game by quickly taking a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Neither team scored again until the fourth when designated player Taylor Hamilton crushed a solo homer to make the score 6-1. Later, going into the seventh inning the Griffons were down 9-4, but Western homered three times in a row to tie the game up 9-9, forcing extra innings. Unfortunately in the eighth inning the Bearcats hit a walk-off single to steal a 10-9 win. Green and third baseman Katie Klosterman homered once while Hamilton went yard twice in the game. Coming out of the road stretch Western is now 26-10 overall and 11-3 in the conference, good enough for second place in the MIAA behind Pittsburg State. The Griffons return home Saturday April, 2 for a double header against the Fort Hays State Tigers.
After a long winter break Western’s men were back in action. The team traveled to Oklahoma City for the Broncho Invitational where the team finished tenth. The weather was a big factor according to coach Greg Dillon. “The wind that I saw was as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Dillon said. The Griffons finished with a team score of 675 on the par 72 course. Leading the Griffons was Jakob Rudosky, who recorded a 162 score in two rounds. Rudosky finished 12th individually, shooting and 80 and 82. “Jakob has been a real big surprise this spring,” Dillon said. “We’ve been expecting him to have a breakout year.” Ryan Hand had the second best score on the team and placed 22nd in the tournament with a score of 163. Then there was Corey Knight who finished 46th in the tournament with a score of 168. “Ryan is still in the hunt for a regional championship,” Dillon said. Oklahoma Christian won the tournament with a team score of 631 in the two round tourney. Central Oklahoma finished second with a score of 632 and third was Southwestern Oklahoma State with a score of 639. The team will return to action on April 4 for the Henderson State tournament in Mountain Home, Ark., at The Big Creek Golf Course. “We’ve had a pretty good start to the spring,” Dillon said. “But we’re looking for more.” The women’s team traveled to Axtell, Neb., for the UNK Spring Invite. The team finished ninth in the tournament with a team score of 646 over two rounds. Shi Qing Ong finished with the best individual score on the team, shooting 153 in her two rounds. Ong finished in 11th place individually. “Shi Qing has really stepped-up her game and she is really fun to watch,” Dillon said. Senior Callie Wilson was second on the team, shooting 163 and Madison Romjue was third on the team scoring a 164. Northeastern State University won the tournament with a team score of 607. The RiverHawks also produced the individual champion, Baylee Price. Price scored a 145 in the two-day event. The women will join the men in Arkansas for the Henderson State University Invitational. “We’ve got more regional tournaments and the conference tournament ahead of us,” Dillon said. “Our focus is to go after some of the top schools in the region.”