City of Joplin Proclaims “Tom C. Rutledge” Day

November 20, 2012

University Relations & Marketing

tom rutledgeJOPLIN, MO (SNS) –The City of Joplin official proclaimed "Tom C. Rutledge Day" in the City of Joplin on Monday, Nov. 19.

The announcement, made in City Council chambers, came as a surprise to the longtime MSSU Head Track/Cross Country coach who recently announced his intention to retire.

"The Council was honored to present him with that award," said Joplin mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean. "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."

The 2012-13 academic year is Tom Rutledge's 24th as head men's cross country/track & field coach at Missouri Southern. He has led the Lions to eight MIAA cross country championships (2000-03, 2005-07, 2009) and two MIAA Indoor Track & Field championships (2004, 2007), ten championships in nine years.

His MSSU cross country team has made ten team appearances in the last thirteen years at the NCAA Division II Championships, always finishing in the top twenty but highlighted by a sixth-place national finish in 2000 and a seventh-place showing in 2002.

For his efforts, Rutledge was named MIAA Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2009 and Indoor Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2007. Rutledge was also honored as South Central Region Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year in 1999, 2004 and 2007, and South Central Region Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2007 for his contributions to the sport. Coach Rutledge was inducted as a member of the MSSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

Rutledge has mentored eight cross country All-Americans and 55 in track & field, several of the 55 achieving multiple All-American statuses.  He has had numerous student-athletes earn academic awards, both on the conference and national levels.  In 2005, the pole vaulters took the top 5 positions in the MIAA Outdoor Conference and took the top three finishes at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships, a rarely achieved accomplishment for one school.

In the spring and summer of 2000, he coached Tongula Givens, a former Missouri Southern national champion in the triple jump, as she made her bid for the U.S. Olympic Team.

Rutledge became head cross country coach in 1989 when Southern first developed its men's and women's teams. Prior to coaching track and field, he had served as offensive line coach and special team coordinator for the Lions during the 1988 season

Missouri Southern hosted its first cross country meet, "The Southern Stampede," just over 20 years ago.  The event is held the third Saturday in September.

The first year the event brought in only 39 runners. This year, over 2000 runners took part, representing over 100 schools.  The event generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the city of Joplin. With the exception of one year due to lightning, The  Southern Stampede has been held every year since its inception.

"Track and field cross country has  been good to me," Rutledge commented after the proclamation. "I was at the  right place in the right time."

An assistant professor of kinesiology, Rutledge received a bachelor's degree in physical education and social studies from Ouachita Baptist University in 1974 and a master's degree in physiology of exercise from Henderson State University in 1976.

Tom is most proud of his efforts to bring track and field to the four states area.  In the last twenty-four years Tom has served as meet director for five national cross country championships (AAU and NCAA) and seven regional cross country championships.   These events have brought thousands of athletes and spectators to Joplin and nearly 2 million dollars of revenue to the community.  The annual cross country Southern Stampede brings over two thousand athletes to Joplin each year.  It is one of the largest cross country meets in the country. 

Coach Rutledge has assisted in developing the MSSU International mission with establishing distance learning programs in Finland and Russia. 

Tom is married to Karen, a local State Farm agent. They have two sons, Chad and Kyle. Chad, a State Farm agent, and his wife Becky and granddaughters Morgan and  Allyson and grandson Ethan, live in Salt Lake City. Kyle, a former All-American pole vaulter for MSSU, and his wife Natalie and granddaughter Emery live in Pittsburg, KS where he is an assistant track coach at Pittsburg State University.  

Rutledge's retirement will become effect in June of 2013.