Rutledge confident despite struggles

Before the Greater Louisville Open, Men’s Cross Country Head Coach Tom Rutledge sent a letter to the meet director asking that his team be included in the upper division of the race.

After his runners crossed the finish line, he may have realized it was a mistake.

“We didn’t even need to go,” he said.  “We got there and looked like crap.  It was embarrassing to the team, me, and the school.”

The team finished No. 36 out of 38 teams in the event. However, Rutledge isn’t giving up on his team yet.

“We’re gonna fix it,” he said.  “I take full responsibility for it, and I’ll fix it.”

How to fix the issues this team is having, though, he’s not sure.

Rutledge says the team seems to train great and run well in practice, but they somehow don’t race as well as they train.  

“We’ve got a young team,” he said.  “We’re not making excuses, but a young team like this needs time.  I just hope I have enough of it.”

Whether or not the team is capable of winning this year, this work ethic and training will likely pay off for the Lions in the long run.

“Victor [Kuk] is running well, but one man doesn’t make a team,”  Rutledge said.

Last year’s MIAA Cross Country Coach of the Year is referring to the freshman from Germany and team captain who was named the MIAA Runner of the Week for the second time this week.

Kuk and the rest of the team now set their sights back on Fayetteville, Ark. where the Lions will run in the Chili Pepper Invitational.

“People still have to go through Joplin,” Rutledge said.  “I still visualize these guys winning a conference title.”

Even if the Lions can’t pull off a conference title, Rutledge knows he is assured future success.

“If they’re going to beat us, they better do it this year because it’ll be harder than hell next year,” he said.