JOPLIN, Mo. — Collegiate cross country runners from South Carolina and New Mexico spent some time with some local elementary school students, Friday morning.

Ahead of the NCAA Division-2 Cross Country National Championship Saturday at Missouri Southern — runners from Catawba College and New Mexico Highlands University visited Royal Heights Elementary School in Joplin.

Athletes from both colleges spent the morning engaging with students about the benefits of going to college — all while playing basketball, tag, and of course — running races.

“You know, show the kids that if you pursue college, pursue sports, that you can really achieve something great in life and it’s really cool that hopefully I can have an impact on these kids and they can pursue their dreams. I remember when I was young and a famous person, we aren’t really famous, but an athlete would come in and you really remember it and have fun — that’s what it’s all about,” said Andrew Amor, Cross Country Runner at New Mexico Highlands University.

“These athletes, they spend their whole year prepping for what they are about to do tomorrow but they still took time out of their day to come and spend time with our students so even though they have that really big event tomorrow, they are still here and they are engaged with the kids,” said Bre Faircloth, Royal Heights Elementary Principal.

Missouri Southern’s women’s team are part of Saturday’s team competition. As are the men’s and women’s teams from Pittsburg State.

The women’s race begins at 11 — the men’s race at 12:15.