When Brian Patton became the head coach of the women's cross country team in the fall of 1994, little did he know what his program was on the verge of accomplishing. Since joining the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as a member of the NCAA Division III in 1995, Patton has led the Greenville College women's cross country team to a record-shattering 13 championships in 14 seasons.
Training for a new women's cross country season will begin at Greenville College in a little over three short weeks and Patton's squad will pursue a 14th championship with a team that returns 10 of 16 letterwinners, including the 2008 SLIAC runner of the year Michelle Sutton, a senior of Springport, Mich., and three additional all-conference runners.
Since being narrowly defeated by Maryville University in the 2003 SLIAC championships, Greenville has collected the last five SLIAC titles with Patton leading the squad.
Joining Sutton as top returners are senior Talen Gerber of Fairbury, Ill., a member of the 2008 SLIAC first team; Sutton's twin sister, Jennifer Sutton, a senior of Springport, Mich., also a member of the 2008 SLIAC first team; and senior Katie Stouffer of Maple Park, Ill., a member of the 2008 SLIAC second team.
The 2009 women's cross country team will be a balanced squad, relying on the experience and contributions of seven seniors to lead three sophomores, four freshmen, and one transfer junior.
"I am really excited about the season, and it does not all have to do with our performance on the course," said Patton. "These seniors bring a wealth of experience and understanding that one cannot manufacture for the total team experience. They understand the work that it takes to be successful. They are excellent students in the classroom."
"But more than anything, they understand the importance of the team being a family, of giving of themselves without asking anything in return. They know what it makes to be a good teammate and they are committed to those standards."
The season begins for the Lady Panthers on Tuesday, Sept. 1, with a visit to Millikin University for a rare weekday meet. Highlights of the cross country schedule include participation in the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships at Illinois State University, the Greater Louisville Classic at the University of Louisville, and the Illinois College Invitational. The annual SLIAC championship meet will be held on Saturday, Oct. 31, once again in Hillsboro, Ill.
The Lady Panthers continue their season at the NCAA Division III midwest regional at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh on Saturday, Nov. 14, as they attempt to qualify for the NCAA Division III national championships at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 21.