With just a year left of collegiate running, Paityn Hower is finding her love for the sport again.

The newly Paityn Stagner graduated from Central High School and was a successful cross country and track runner for the Indians.

“Track was always kinda my thing in high school,” Stagner said.

Stagner qualified for state in cross-country during her sophomore season. She also was a state medalist, earning fourth in back-to-back seasons before placing second during her senior year.

She holds the school record at Central and the eighth best time in the state for the 800 with a run of 2 minutes, 11.31 seconds.

Stagner said she loved running in high school. Her coach, Bob Miller, inspired her to be the best runner she could be. She even still runs with Miller and others in the community when she returns home on breaks.

“He was my coach, and he was my pastor, and he actually officiated my wedding,” Stagner said. “It’s always fun to go back and run in St. Joe with that same community that I grew up with.”

When it came to looking into college, she looked had offers from multiple schools, including Kansas State, Mizzou, Oklahoma State and Missouri State.

Ultimately, she chose Kansas State. She only spent a semester there because she couldn’t see herself running for four years there and still loving it.

“I didn’t really feel that it was a place for me — I didn’t really enjoy where I was at,” Stagner said.

So, she transferred to Missouri State for her second semester of freshman year.

“I just love Missouri State,” Stagner said. “I love the running, but it also kind of simplified things again for me, running-wise. When I got to Missouri State, it felt a lot more like what I was used to in high school, and I’ve made a lot of my closest friends here at Missouri State. I’m really glad I decided to transfer early on.”

Since, Stagner has been a key piece of the Bears’ cross country and track teams. She recorded personal bests in 4-, 5- and 6-kilometer races in cross country.

Stagner was also a part of the 4x800-meter relay this past spring that beat the previous school record by 10 seconds.

Stagner said she has struggled with her passion for running recently and wants to love it as much as she did in high school. With a year left, Stagner said she is spending this summer before the cross country season begins as a time to find her love again.

Her and her teammates meet at the track at 6 a.m. and run around Springfield to get their mileage in.

“I think just knowing this is the last go-around with cross-country and track, I really have a fire to get out there and do the best that I can and really contribute on the team,” Stagner said.

Amanda Sullivan can be reached

at amanda.sullivan@newspressnow.com.

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