Rutledge challenges runners to reach potential

Parker Willis

After an off week, the men’s cross country team bounced back to take first at the Missouri/Illinois Border Wars.

After placing 14th at the Oklahoma State University Jamboree, men’s Cross Country head coach Tom Rutledge said he challenged his runners because he believed they weren’t reaching their potential.

“One of our goals was to have five guys under 26 minutes,” Rutledge said. “Well, we had four guys under 26 minutes and the fifth guy was 26:08. So we were close.

“We didn’t even have to look at the results because anytime you get five guys under 26, you’re going to come very close to winning the meet.”

The win landed the Lions the No. 11 ranking in the country. But that doesn’t change anything in Rutledge’s eyes.

“I don’t get excited over how we’re ranked because it means nothing,” he said. “The only ranking that I’m going to be impressed with will be on Nov. 18. Because that’s after nationals and that’s the final ranking.

“That’s the only ranking that means anything to me. And I want my athletes to believe that too.”

The Lion’s top five runners in the Border Wars included Dustin Dixon, 25:34; Bret Musser, 25:44; Kyle Davis, 25:49; Ryan Arthur, 25:54 and Brennon Benkert, 26:08.

Now the Lions are looking forward to the MIAA Championship meet Oct. 21 in Bolivar. Rutledge believes his runners still have five weeks left in the season, because he has confidence they will place high enough in the NCAA Div. II South Central Regional meet Nov. 4 that they will be one of the teams to go to the NCAA Div. II Championships Nov. 18.

“We expect to win every meet we go to.” Rutledge said. “If I didn’t I’d be an idiot.”