Lions running strong into postseason

It’s not over yet.

The Missouri Southern men’s cross country team is ranked No. 12 in the nation.

They have won the MIAA conference, they placed second in Regionals, and now the team has its sights on the NCAA National Cross Country Championship. The Lions will be leaving at 10 a.m. Nov. 14 for the championship in Pensacola, Fla., to be held Nov. 18.

“This is what we’ve been training for all year,” said head coach Tom Rutledge. “These guys are very young and they’ve accomplished their goals so far this year, and they’ve done an extraordinarily good job.”

Kyle Davis, junior health promotion wellness major and team captain, said he was nervous yet optimistic about the nationals.

“The best part is still to come,” he said. “There’s no doubt that we’re ready for it. Everybody gets nervous before something big happens, but it’ll be good when the gun goes off.”

Rutledge has coached track and field and cross country since 1990, and said this team is special. The seven runners have impressed Rutledge in talent on and off the course.

“I want people to know I am very proud of these guys,” he said. “These guys are awesome, win or lose, I am proud to have coached these guys this year, and I look forward to taking them to the next level. When I say things I mean them, I’m straightforward. My wife says I have no tact.”

Not only are the seven students competitive distance runners, they are also honor students.

Davis currently holds a 4.0 grade-point average, and plans to attend graduate school after he finishes at Southern.

“We’ll be one of the top cross country teams in the country as far as grade-point average at nationals,” Rutledge said.

He also said leadership skills were not lacking this year.

The upperclassmen Davis, Brett Musser and Ryan Arthur stood out in Rutledge’s mind.

As well as the number-one runner, Dustin Miller who chose to redshirt this year in order to compete in next year’s nationals, which will be held at Southern.

“You can’t emphasize enough on leadership in teams,” said Rutledge. “It’s been a very good mesh of chemistry this year, the freshman adapted to the upperclassmen’s leadership.”

Davis said he tries to give his teammates something to look up to.

“We have five freshmen this year and every one of them have potential,” Davis said.

The NCAA Nationals consists of one race, 10,000 meters (6.2 miles) with 24 competing teams. Rutledge said he isn’t scared.

“Our guys are trained for it,” he said. “They train 100 miles a week, so they can handle this. They just have to have confidence that they can run with anybody and do what I ask them to, and they’ll come out successful.”

Davis said Rutledge is student-athlete approved.

“Everybody that runs for him right now loves him, and is all about his coaching style,” said Davis. “We like to win, and he can’t stand to lose.”