Winners in more ways than one
SBU runners survive horrible accident, to win championship, point others to God
By Bob Baysinger
September 16, 2004
BOLIVAR – It was April 16, 10:30 p.m.
Christine Showler was uncertain about the extent of her injuries. She had been helped out of a crumpled Southwest Baptist University (SBU) van and was lying in the grass along Missouri 13 north of Bolivar.
Showler was one of eight SBU cross-country runners riding back to Bolivar from meets at the University of Kansas in Topeka and at Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, when the van, driven by Coach Mark Misch, collided with a pickup truck crossing the highway.
The pickup, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, was driven by a drunk driver.
“I was in the very back seat and was not wearing a seat belt,” Showler remembers. “The accident threw me up to the second seat. I had a big cut on my head and a mild concussion. There was a lot of blood in the van. It was horrible.
“Somehow a couple of guys were able to get me out of the van. As I was lying there, I could move my neck, but the thought went through my mind that maybe I was paralyzed.”
* * *
Almost five months later (Sept. 3) on a warm September afternoon in Bolivar, Showler and four of the other runners injured in the accident ran in the Bearcat Invitational – the opening meet of the 2004 cross-country season.
Just competing was an accomplishment, but they did even more – much more.
Showler helped the Lady Bearcat runners capture the meet championship. Showler posted a time of 19:21 in the 5k (3.1 miles) race, the third best time ever posted by a woman on the Bolivar Golf Course track.
Showler said she did not realize the torrid pace she was setting during the race.
“I didn’t look at my time,” she said. “I was just excited that God had given us another chance to compete. I really enjoyed the race. It was just a blessing to be able to run again.
“We just wanted to use this race to glorify God. All summer I prayed that this would be the best season we’ve had and that God would use this as a testimony to other athletes and students. We believe God has had a hand in our recovery and being able to run again.”
The race day was also a day of victory and excitement for Misch and the other injured runners Erika Anderson, Brandon Sherrer, Austin Bunn and Tom Miner.
The van slammed into the pickup’s right front side. The van spun 180 degrees and flipped over on its side in a ditch.
Misch didn’t have time to avoid the pickup.
Like Showler, what Misch remembers most is that “there was blood everywhere.”
The coach and runners are convinced that God was riding in the van with them that night.
Misch said the first indication of God’s presence was the fact that the battery remained connected after the crash. A body shop employee noted after the accident that he had never seen a wreck “like that with nine people in it where nobody died.”
Because the battery remained connected the dome light worked, breaking the darkness of the night. Misch, although trapped himself, was able to determine the extent of injures and give directions to others about getting out of the van.
Miner, who placed 23rd in the Bearcat Invitational with a time of 27:49, was not wearing a seat belt when the collision happened. He was thrown partially through the driver’s side window and was trapped under the overturned van.
Two runners – Bunn, who finished 12th in the meet with a time of 27:05, a junior, and Sherrer, (39th, 29:11) – had opened the back doors to escape. They saw Miner’s condition and, using what they described as ‘God-given’ strength,’ lifted the van to pull Miner’s body free.
C. Pat Taylor, who was present at the Bearcat Invitational, said God was glorified not only at the accident scene but also has been glorified afterward.
“At other track meets last spring after the accident, it (the accident) gave students and coaches an opportunity to share their testimony with other athletes and coaches,” Taylor said. “At the accident that night, some of those who were injured as severely went over and prayed with the man who was driving the pickup truck and his girlfriend who was following in another car.
“From my perspective, God was in that vehicle with those kids. When you look at how badly the van was damaged, there could have been several deaths. I know God was there to protect the coach and those kids. This accident has given the kids a platform to share their testimony with so many people. I am so proud of the kids for doing that.”
The healing process hasn’t occurred overnight for some of the athletes.
Showler determined to make a quick comeback.
“About a week and a half after the accident, I determined that I was going to run for five or 10 minutes,” Showler said. “I had a headache for four days after that. They told me it was because of the concussion.
“I had to wait some more and, when I started again, I started running for five minutes and then added a minute every day.”
Misch described the healing process that has occurred for the team as a God thing.
“God came though with His timing,” Misch said, “and healed the team for the 2004 cross country season.”