Men’s cross country team places third in annual Illinois race

Teams from Missouri and Illinois came together to race at the Missouri-Illinois Border War Oct. 8 in Edwardsville, Ill.

Southern came out in third place out of the 29 teams present.

The six Lions competing had 179 points, following Truman State University by 10 points. DePauw University won the event with 76 points.

Southern was led by sophomore Kyle Davis and junior Dustin Miller who clenched 16th and 17th places, with times of 26:06.69 and 26:08.55, respectively.

The next pair of Lions to cross the finish line was freshmen Bret Musser in 31st and Dustin Dixon in 33rd. They completed the course in 26:34.17 and 26:35.18.

Junior Marcus Walton, the fifth Lion to clock, finished with a time of 27:28.51. Freshman Derek Wright came in with 27:50.70.

“Everyone stayed together,” Davis said. “Bret Musser and Dixon stayed together well and moved up, and Miller and I did.”

Davis said Walton ran really well, especially since he is a middle-distance runner and this is the fifth meet.

After the Border War, Tom Rutledge, head men’s cross country coach, said the Lions are still a little tired, but they’re rolling the dice.

With the MIAA conference meet approaching Oct. 22, the mileage is still up, and they’re still trying to keep the team together.

“Central and Truman are going to be tough,” Rutledge said. “They’re the teams to beat this year at conference. We can do it; we just have to compete as a team.”

Rutledge said the Border War was the first time the team really ran as a group.

“We’ve always had good individual performances,” he said. “It was the first signs we showed we run and train as a team.”

Rutledge said athletes can have a tendency of “falling asleep” and relaxing in races when they should keep the intensity going.

He said the team is starting to keep the intensity up.

“It’s exciting to see this young group really start to mature and develop into a good team,” he said.

The Lions will train through until the MIAA Conference Championship Oct. 22 at Pittsburg State University, where the course may tweak the competition.

The flat PSU course is unlike most of the courses the Lions run.

“We pride ourselves in the tougher the course, the tougher we are,” Rutledge said.

However, with the flat course at PSU, Rutledge said the team will have to be more mentally tough than the other teams.

“It’s a tough meet for us,” he said. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Miller said CMSU and TSU have decent front runners, but it’s the back three that are really important.

“The other teams in the conference are in the same boat as us,” Miller said. “They don’t have a fifth guy – they’re all back a little bit. It basically comes down to who can pack up and get in.”

However, Dixon said the team is expecting a fifth man to step up at conference, but who it will be is left to be found out. Either way, he said the No. 3 and 4 will also have to step up.

For the first time this season, all the Lions practiced together this week, which they have not been able to do because of numerous injuries.

“We’re finally getting healthier,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a dog fight.”

Davis said if they can get the fifth man up with the third and fourth, they’ll have just as good of a shot at winning as anybody with that combination.

The team encourages people to come and support them during the MIAA Conference Championships Oct. 22 in Pittsburg.

“[The championship] is out there for us to win,” Rutledge said. “But we’ll have to have a great race.”

He said he has athletes that can win the championship.

“They just have to believe in themselves,” Rutledge said.