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Under a blazing hot Texas sun, Liz Kyger, 51, of Ava, was overall female finisher in the 5K road race in Houston, Texas on Saturday, June 25, earning her a gold medal and a national title. Her time on the 3.1-mile USATF certified course was 21:44 minutes.
To qualify for the National Senior Olympics, an athlete must be 50 years old or older and place 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a state qualifying game the previous year. There were 19 sports held with 10,100 athletes competing in this year’s National games. Liz also competed in the 10K road race the very next day and earned a silver medal for 2nd place.
Kyger, the track and field and cross country coach for Ava High School, is a breast cancer survivor who credits her success both running and overcoming cancer to strong support from family, friends, community and her students.
Coach Kyger was also selected to represent Missouri in the Parade of Athletes on June 21 where she carried the Missouri State Flag during the presentation of the 50 states.
In 2009, after two surgeries, seven months of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation, Kyger was diagnosed as cancer free. During her treatments, Ava High School hosted a “No Hair Cuz We Care” head shaving event that involved more than 70 heads being shaved and raised over $4,200 for Neighbor Helping Neighbor, Douglas County’s cancer relief foundation that supports any cancer patient in Douglas County with several hundred dollars in cash for travel expenses.
In addition to that fundraiser, and wanting to give back to that same organization that had assisted her, Liz biked, walked and ran 776 miles during her last month of chemotherapy in August 2009, raising another $2,300 for Neighbor Helping Neighbor.
Not only was traveling and competing at Houston a celebration of survival and thanks for Coach Kyger, but it was also a journey in nostalgia as she relived her 30-year anniversary of earning all-American honors in track and field in the NAIA Championships also held in Houston, Texas, in 1981.
Coach Kyger will be competing in the 10K in Sacramento, Calif., at the World Masters Games on July 15.