Lions host successful Stampede, eye MIAA

Alison Walker seems alone, but nearly 2,000 runners competed in the Southern Stampede Saturday, Sept. 16 at Southern.

Alison Walker seems alone, but nearly 2,000 runners competed in the Southern Stampede Saturday, Sept. 16 at Southern.

Parker Willis

Lions runners placed well last weekend while hosting one of the biggest cross country events in the country.

Tom Rutledge, head cross country coach, said he was proud of both the men’s and women’s teams during the Southern Stampede held Sept. 16 on the Missouri Southern camus.

The women placed seventh overall in the event. And the men finished fourth.

Rutledge said he expected to place higher in the men’s division, but his runners just had a bad day.

The University of Arkansas captured first place in the event, but Rutledge said that was expected since they are ranked number two in the nation in Division I, and Southern is a Division II school.

Overall, the event brought in 1,956 runners.

“I mean how many sports can bring in 50 high schools to see your campus in one day?” Rutledge said.

On top of the high schools, there were also 40 colleges and universities represented.

“We’re proud of it (the event), we’ve developed this into a monster,” Rutledge said. “It’s actually getting too big, when you have that many runners, getting it done is very difficult and we had to have help.”

And to help out, Southern’s women’s basketball and softball teams pitched in as did the men’s baseball team. In total there were approximately 150 volunteers staffing the four-hour event.

“We couldn’t make it without these people, they were great,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge started the Stampede 17 years ago with only 125 participants, and said it has gotten bigger every year. He said when he originally named the event Stampede he had no idea it would grow to be an actual stampede.

But with a cross country course that is nationally known, Rutledge said he expects the event will only get bigger every year.

Especially since Southern will host the National Division II cross country championship again next year. The last time Southern hosted the national championship was in 1998.

Another factor to the growing number of participants is the media coverage. Both the Cross Country Express and the US Track and Field magazines were present at the event.

Rutledge also mentioned how well his runners represented the school.

Freshman Kimi Shank was named MIAA Runner of the Week after her eighteenth-place finish. She was followed closely by Kara Eckard who placed 27th.

The men also had four runners who placed in the top 40. Brennon Benkert finished 20th, Dustin Dixon finished 21st, Bret Musser finished 23rd, and Ricky Armstrong finished 38th.

But Rutledge said although his runners did well, this is only the beginning of the season he is more worried about how they finish the season.

“Our first goal is to win the MIAA, then place at the top of the Regionals so we can go to Nationals in Pensacola, Fla.,” Rutledge said. “We want to still be running in November when other people are sitting at home.”

The MIAA meet is scheduled for Oct. 21 in Bolivar. Regionals are Nov. 4 and Nationals is Nov. 21.

The Lions’ next action will be Sept. 30 when the men run in the Oklahoma State Jamboree and the women compete in the Loyola Lakefront Invitational.