From staff reports
Tom Rutledge, after 24 years as track and field and cross country coach at Missouri Southern, has announced he will retire after this school year.
The retirement becomes official in June 2013.
Last Saturday Rutledge’s cross country team placed eighth among 32 teams in the NCAA Division II men’s cross country championships at the Missouri Southern course. It’s the third highest finish in school history for the men’s team behind a sixth-place showing in 2000 and seventh place in 2002.
And, the city of Joplin proclaimed Monday as “Tom C. Rutledge Day.”
“The council was honored to present him with that award,” Joplin mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said in a release. “We know Coach Rutledge has been an integral part of Missouri Southern sports, helping to develop several world class track and field athletes. It continues to show the high quality level of expertise and success that comes out of the city of Joplin.”
“Track and field and cross country have been good to me,” Rutledge said after the proclamation. “I was at the right place at the right time.”
Rutledge has guided the Lions to eight MIAA cross country championships — four straight from 2000-03 and three straight from 2005-07 — and two league indoor track championships.
“I guess we have the MIAA’s best men’s cross country program this century,” Rutledge quipped after Saturday’s national meet.
Rutledge became cross country coach in 1989 when Missouri Southern first started its men’s and women’s programs. Before coaching track, he served as offensive line coach and special teams coordinator for the Lions’ football team in 1988.
“Tom Rutledge has been the heart and soul of Missouri Southern track and field and cross country since the programs’ inception,” MSSU athletics director Jared Bruggeman said. “His tireless dedication to the many, many student-athletes he has mentored over the years will be sorely missed.
“Whether it is coaching or the countless hours he has put in over the years to make the Southern Stampede what it is today, his impact to this athletic department, the university and the community is beyond measurement.”
Rutledge and his wife Karen have two grown sons, Chad and Kyle. Chad, an insurance agent, lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Becky and daughters Morgan and Allyson and son Ethan. Kyle, former All-American pole vaulter for the Lions, is in his first year as assistant track coach at Pittsburg State. He and his wife Natalie have one daughter Emery.