Indoor soccer tournament keeps players, parents going Long-di

Sunday, January 12, 2003

When eight-hour trips to play games are routine, driving from Jackson to Cape Girardeau for the St. Francis Medical Center Indoor Invitational Soccer Tournament is like stepping into your back yard.

So this weekend is a welcome break for the Roadrunners, a soccer team made up of girls 15 to 18 years old and based in Jackson, just one of 107 girls and boys teams from Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky participating in the three-day tournament that ends at 7 p.m. today. Games are held at the Show Me Center, Student Recreation Center and Houck Field House at Southeast Missouri State University.

The Roadrunners decided in 1999 that driving eight hours to a tournament was far enough and set that as the limit.

"We figured out how long it took us to get to Little Rock and made a circle on the map. Now we stay inside that circle," said Mike Biri, assistant coach and manager for the team, as well as father of 17-year-old player KT.

Their "circle" still takes the Roadrunners north of Chicago to Rockford, Ill., which is the team's favorite summer tournament, and to Kansas City and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Those distances demonstrate their devotion to the sport -- one shared by many parents and players in this year's tournament.

Beverly and Britt Burcham of Kennett, Mo., only have two children playing in the St. Francis tournament this weekend, but they have had four in the same event. Britt is the assistant coach for 12-year-old daughter Brook's team, the Kennett Krushers.

As she watched Brook play at the Student Recreation Center Saturday morning, Beverly said both Brook and her 16-year-old son, Brandon, would be playing at 4 p.m.

"Britt will coach her while I watch Brandon, and I'll go back and forth. Thank goodness they are both under the same roof this year," Beverly said. "I'll end up running more than they will probably, but that way hopefully I won't miss anything too exciting."

Thirteen-year-old Landon Besand of the Perryville Panthers has been playing soccer since he was in the first grade. He would like to play in college and even beyond, which means he will have a big decision to make next year since Perryville's high school does not offer soccer.

Besand plays soccer locally and on all-star teams almost every weekend throughout the year except during the summer. Still, he said he doesn't feel like he is giving up any free time. He would rather be out on the soccer field than anywhere else.

"There is always something going on, always something exciting," Besand said.

The Roadrunners have been together since the girls were in the third or fourth grade, Biri said. With players from Jackson, Cape Girardeau and Perryville, the team plays all year, except during the spring high school soccer season.

Tournament action keeps them busy during the summer and fall. The St. Louis league's season runs from November to March. The team consists of girls who are committed and want to play soccer in college, Biri said.

"When you're gone all weekend, you have to work your butt off during the middle of the week to get things done at home," Biri said. "It really takes a lot, really takes a whole family to do it."

jgosche@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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