Lions finish 18th at national meet

The Missouri Southern mens cross country team won the MIAA Conference championship Oct. 21.

The Missouri Southern men’s cross country team won the MIAA Conference championship Oct. 21.

Out of 24 teams competing at the NCAA Division II Men’s Cross Country National Championship Meet, the Missouri Southern Lions placed 18th.

“They represented Missouri Southern very well,” said head coach Rutledge. “Our upperclassmen ran really well. I think the freshmen just weren’t ready for that much hoopla.”

Every four years, the nationals include a sports festival with several other sports. This adds people, activity and “astronomical” distractions. Three of the seven runners had never competed in nationals.

“They were trained physically, but mentally they were not ready for a national championship,” Rutledge said. “And as freshmen, it’s a big step. It’s really unusual to have that many freshmen on a team anyway.”

The competing runners were frustrated with the results. Kyle Davis, junior health promotion wellness major and team captain, said he was “unsatisfied.”

Even though the Lions were disappointed with their performance, Rutledge could only say the best of his runners.

“We’re better than 240 other schools,” he said. “There would have been a lot of people who would have liked to have been there when we were. We got there, and the freshmen got us there by running good all year. I am so proud of these guys; we have only lost one conference meet this whole millennium.”

Dustin Dixon, Ryan Arthur and Brett Musser all ran personal bests, and Kyle Davis, the team captain, competed after being hospitalized the previous day.

“(Davis) had spent all day Friday in the hospital, and he still ran on Saturday. They gave him two IVs and tried to get him back up,” Rutledge said. “I had asked him not to run and he said ‘Coach, I’ve come this far and I’m going to attempt to run.’ And he did run, and he ended up being our fourth man. I admire the young man.”

At first, Davis said he couldn’t begin to think about running, but he was determined not to let his team down.

“I didn’t know how I was going to run it, but I knew I was going to at least go to the starting line,” Davis said.

After the race, Davis was physically unable to go to the closing ceremony. Rutledge said the ceremony was spectacular, but something else impressed him while the team was in Florida.

“A lot of (the runners) were stressed because they were missing class,” he said. “I went up to the room and they were studying.”

Looking back on the season, Davis said this team is one of the best teams he has been on, and is confident for its future.

Another unique aspect of the trip was the support of the other Lions cross country squad. Four runners from the women’s cross country team and Dr. Sallie Beard, director of athletics, all traveled to Florida to show Lion pride.

“It really meant a lot to the guys,” Rutledge said. “This was a good experience, and you can’t put a price on experience.

“The team is awesome; I mean they’re of the main reasons why I’m here and we’ll be stronger next year.”