Freshman compete in nationals

Hallie Hocker

While the Lions didn’t make the national cross country championship as a team, they did send one freshman to compete Nov. 19 in Pomona, Calif.

Bret Musser, freshman, was the only Lion to qualify for the NCAA Division II championship when he earned 11th place at the regional meet in Abilene, Texas Nov. 5.

Men’s head cross country coach Tom Rutledge said the Lions should have qualified as a team but didn’t for the first time since 1999.

Rutledge said anytime an athlete competes on the national level they have to be pretty good.

“There’s no weak people, they’re all good,” he said. “We’ll be back.”

Rutledge said for a freshman to go is good.

“It was a big honor to get to go,” Musser said. “To qualify as an individual is one of the hardest things to do.”

He finished the 10-K in 34.20.6 placing 88th of 182 at the national meet.

“He ran a great race at regionals and went to nationals and obtained some very valuable experience,” Rutledge said.

Musser said for the most part it was a good experience, the trip was a blast, but the race wasn’t what he thought it would be.

“It was a rude awakening,” he said.

Musser said as the competition took off much faster it was harder to stick with the others through the race.

“I got sucked into the fast pace at the beginning,” he said.

He said he was in the 30s rank the first mile before falling back to the 100s and picking it back up again to gain 88th.

“It was kind of a shock that people at the national level go out that fast and stay that fast,” he said.

Musser said he had to go out and hold on but he couldn’t do that.

“It was one big learning experience,” he said.

Musser said it was a fairly flat course but a hot, windy and dusty day in Pomona.

“It wasn’t a good day for the cold weather people at nationals because going from 50 degrees here to 90 degrees there was crazy,” he said.

From the region, Abilene Christian ended up taking 8th in the nation. Central Missouri State University finished 22nd out of 24 teams.

Musser said the weather didn’t help make a good day for the MIAA conference.

Meanwhile, he hopes to carry what he’s learned into track season and the next cross country season.

Musser said while the season started off slow, he was able to learn quickly how to race long distances in college.

“I learned a lot from the older guys,” he said.

He is looking forward to a less drawn-out track season with shorter distances and more energetic meets with more spectators.

The Lions start the indoor season Jan. 13 at the University of Arkansas.