Schott out of a cannon

Junior distance runner Eric Schott led his race around the track inside the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on March 2, 2014 during the MIAA Indoor Championships where the Lions finished second.

Willie Brown/The Chart File

Junior distance runner Eric Schott led his race around the track inside the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on March 2, 2014 during the MIAA Indoor Championships where the Lions finished second.

Matt Barney, sports writer

As the 2014 fall cross country season gets under way, senior runner Eric Schott is poised for a huge campaign.  

As team captain, the multi-time MIAA cross country athlete of the week, has helped make his team a unanimous pick to win the conference by being selected pre-season No. 1 in the latest coach’s poll.  

Schott has also been influential in earning the team national respect as the Lions come in ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division II central region.  

“[Schott] is one of our strongest returners this season,” said head coach Brian Schiding. “We have a very strong group but we need to make sure we keep everything in check—train hard, train like they have a chip on their shoulder, because we can’t afford to take anything for granted.”

Schott grew up in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where he played several sports and really got into running around the sixth grade. Schott says his father Terry really helped him at a young age by encouraging him to be his best.

Any time he felt things were getting hard, his father would push him and make him want to strive to get better.

This contributed to Schott’s mental toughness, a highly sought after trait in a sport where you are constantly pushing your body.

“Obviously, I’m a small skinny guy, and I feel the thing that helps me to succeed is being mentally strong and being able to push harder when I start feeling tired in races,” he said.  This toughness helped Schott overcome his biggest obstacle.

“Sophomore year I got Achilles tendonitis right when I was coming back from Christmas break and couldn’t run from January to the end of March. I only had six weeks of running to get ready for the conference meet,” he said.  “It was a tough process. My practice almost doubled in time as I was swimming an hour and biking over an hour every day. But I was able to stay in solid shape and come back to score points in both the 10k and 5k and help the team. So I feel like I handled it pretty well.”

Despite Schott’s individual goal of becoming conference champion, regional champion, and placing top 15 at nationals, he is a team-first guy who says the team goals of winning conference and regional titles and placing top 8 in nationals comes first.

“Having a team that is so close and like a family it makes all the runs enjoyable and you just have an accomplished feeling when you are done with a run,” said Schott.

Teammates predict individual All-American honors for Schott, but they say he still maintains his role within the framework of the team.

“Eric is a dependable teammate who also keeps you accountable with the work you are putting in,” said senior Colton Wooldridge. “As captain this year he has been more vocal and setting a good example for the underclassmen.”

“He’s a pretty good overall teammate,” said senior Andrew Webster. “He’s not dull or too serious until we step on the line, but he’s a leader when he needs to be. He’s enjoyable to train with, which is what you look for in a good teammate. He’s tough. He won’t give up on a goal. When he sets something in his mind, he is going to achieve it.”

Schott and the rest of the Lions cross country team will open their season here at home Sept. 20 as the Lions host this years Southern Stampede.