Rutledge enters season confident

So far, so good, is what men’s head coach Tom Rutledge thinks about the indoor season.

With a young team, Rutledge is still confident in the athletes. As far as the running crew is concerned, Rutledge believes the team will do well if they stay healthy.

“They better not blink or we’ll beat them,” he said.

Senior Marcus Walton started the season well in the 800M. Walton took fourth with a time of 1:56.72 at the Razorback Invitational Jan. 19.

He is focusing on getting back to race mode after not competing in cross country and being in practice mode for awhile. He said the whole team is getting back in the “feel of things.”

“We’re trying to set up a good base so we’ll have better races at the end of the year when we need them,” he said.

In the 3000M run, Southern had a good showing from sophomore Dustin Dixon who won in 8:31.99. Freshman Isaac Garcia took ninth in the event with 8:57.16.

Freshman Ricky Armstrong took third in the 5000M run with a time of 15:01.63. Sophomore Ryan Arthur came in 10th with 15:42.51.

Southern’s distance medley relay came in seventh with a time of 10:08.78.

In the field events, junior Russell Ellis cleared 16-04.75 to take sixth in the pole vault competition. Junior Jacob Williams took seventh with 15-11.00.

Ellis is currently ranked third in the nation in the event. Williams is 10th and sophomore Seager Wilson is 11th, both with 15-11.00.

Junior John Isenman came in eighth in the weight throw with 49-08.25. Junior Lucas Clark threw 46-04.00 for 10th.

With a young team, inexperience is a concern, but student assistant Neil Hombs says the group works hard.

“I think they have a lot of potential, he said. “If we pull everybody together, they’ve got enough potential to win the conference title. But we’ve got to pull everyone together at the same time.”

Student assistant Kyler Rushing said the one thing he noticed about some of the freshmen is being consistent in performance from practice to meets.

He also sees potential for the team to become good with experience.

Student assistant Kyle Rutledge said the team meshes very well together.

Ellis said the team is the closest knit he has ever seen.

“The cross country guys have set the standard [of winning] and a lot of the guys are starting to come together and form a good group,” Kyle Rutledge said.

Tom Rutledge said he is very pleased so far.

“They’ve made a great effort and they’re great kids,” he said. “A lot came back in good condition from the holidays. Some did not, but we look to pull them up to our level.”

The team also has some injuries to work through at the beginning of the season.

Rutledge said one key to success will be working on mental toughness throughout the season.

“If we get mentally tough, we’ll beat a lot of people,” he said. “We will be physically tough, but we’ve got to mentally tough.”

The Lions compete next at the Fazoli’s/Baymont Inn Invitational on Friday and Saturday at home.