Stampede brings in revenue for Southern’s CC teams

Nathan Mills / Staff Writer

“Finishing 10 out of 34 teams is OK, but it’s not great.”

Men’s cross country coach Tom Rutledge wasn’t necessarily pleased with his team’s performance this past weekend at the Southern Stampede.

“We still run like young kids,” he said.  “We still run poorly.”

The problem seems to be that the runners aren’t racing together.

“We broke up real fast at the 800 meter mark, and we’re not supposed to do that,” he said.  “They got split up and basically ran in no-man’s-land.”

The team is definitely experiencing some growing pains due to their youth.

“They’re all trying to take the leadership role,” Rutledge said.  “You can have too many leaders at times, and they all run different races.  

“They were the top dogs in high school, but they’ll have to learn how to be pack dogs in college.”

There is, however, a silver lining.

“I’m not displeased with the effort, and their work ethics have been great,” he said.  

“We just have to run a smarter race.”

The effort from one Lion runner in particular shined.  

Victor Kuk, a freshman from Germany, was awarded the men’s MIAA Cross Country Athlete of the Week in his first collegiate race.

Coach Rutledge was excited about unleashing Kuk last week but seemed disappointed with the way he ran at the Stampede.

“Victor was just so excited to race, he ran himself out,” Rutledge said.

Kuk was also disappointed in himself.

“He decided to run his own race, and he feels bad about that,” Rutledge said.  

“They all feel bad, but I want them to understand that we can fix this.”

Last year’s MIAA Cross Country Coach of the Year isn’t putting the issues in races solely on his runners.

“The kids try hard, but they haven’t quite found their niche,” he said.  

“It’s my job to fix that, so I’ve got to take some responsibility.”

The Lions weren’t the only team having issues, though.  

The heat and humidity proved to be the biggest competition for many other teams.

“A lot of kudos go to our medical staff because with the heat, especially during the high school races and the men’s collegiate race, they [the runners] were dropping like flies,” he said.

Rutledge credited that medical staff for being aptly prepared as they administered IV’s to 40 different runners before the race was over..

“We train in it, so we were able to handle it,” Rutledge said.  “That wasn’t the case for other teams.”

Besides the medical staff, the 22-year coach credits the other volunteers for making sure the event went off without a hitch.

“Teams continue to come to this event because it’s ran so professionally,” he said.

“We have 150 workers out there to make sure it runs smoothly.”

The coach says those people deserve quite a bit of credit for the event becoming what it has.

“I appreciate all those people who volunteer,” he said.  “I try to find each one of them and shake their hand.”

Even with the issues on the course and with the heat, the Stampede is to be considered a success.

“I was very profitable, I’d say, because with budget cuts we have to try to get as much as we can to help support our team so we can compete,” Rutledge said.

The Stampede almost completely funds the seasons for the men’s and women’s cross country teams.

“The Stampede has turned into one of the biggest fundraisers that we have all year,” Rutledge said.  “We couldn’t make it without it.”

After an initial cost of $10,000 to run the event, all money made from entry fees goes directly to the two teams.

“We made about $20,000 on entry fees,” Rutledge said.

That extra $10,000 is used on such things as shoes for the runners, travel, course upkeep, and various other equipment the team may need.  

It’s a big boost in an athletic department that could be facing even more budget cuts this year.

“If we didn’t have this, we couldn’t make it through the year,” he said.

With all the preparation that goes into running the Stampede, it may be time to start planning for next year.