Men hoping their hard work pays off

Jordan Larimore

All the miles add up to one day. That day is tomorrow for the Men’s Cross Country team.

Head coach Tom Rutledge and his men hope that their year-round training pays off when they compete in the MIAA Conference Championship meet in Emporia, Kansas tomorrow.

The men will be coming off a week without a meet following their 1st place finish at Missouri S&T in Rolla on October 10.

The Lions were without sophomore Jarkko Jarvenpaa and still managed to edge out conference opponents Southwest Baptist and Pittsburg State.

“It was very wet and soggy this weekend and we ran pretty good times considering,” Rutledge said. “But we also know that if Pittsburg State had run their number one man they’d have beat us. But if we’d have had Jarkko we might have beat them. There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, but the bottom line is this; we won that day.”

According to Rutledge, this year’s team has as much or more talent than any he can recall, however the MIAA is also more competitive than ever.

“I’ve won the conference with less ability and teams that weren’t quite as good as these guys are. If these guys keep believing in themselves and believing they can win, that’s ninety percent of the winning process,” he said. “Our times are three times faster than some teams I’ve won with. It’s just that the competition is escalated this year. In 21 years it’s the toughest conference I’ve seen.

“This is the toughest and the closest it’s ever been. It could come down to one point. It could come down to one person. That’s why we’ve got to run a perfect race, if we’re expected to win. We’ve got to put that perfect race together.

“And then turn around and do it again in two weeks at the Regionals, but right now we take them one at a time, we have the conference championship at Emporia.”

At this point in the season, the only three meets remaining on the slate are the Conference Championships, followed by the Regional and National Championships with two weeks between each race.

With the time off between meets, and the increased importance of each one, preparations and training for these races changes somewhat, according to Rutledge.

“We start decreasing the volume but increasing the intensity. For example…they have twenty times four hundred meters,” Rutledge said. “Four hundred meters is one lap around the track, they have twenty of them with a two hundred meter jog in between, and everyone has to be done under seventy seconds.

“We have our intensity levels raising and we’ll drop our mileage levels down to about eighty miles a week.”

Rutledge has as much confidence in his group of young men as anyone, even despite the competition the MIAA presents.

“We will be a contender at conference and they will give everything they’ve got, I can promise you that. I can promise you that,” Rutledge said. “And we’re going to be tough to beat. We may not win it with talent, but we’ll win it with effort. That’s a fact.”