Thomas Ruttger has been the Brainerd Warriors' No. 1 runner from meet No. 1 this fall.
The senior entered the preseason ranked fourth in Class 2A and has been consistent, although he has dropped out of the rankings. He won two races and was second in two others.
His most important finish was fourth place in the Section 8-2A meet, qualifying him for the 2A state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
"I just had to focus on my race," Ruttger said. "I wanted to run with (Bemidji's Erik Truedson) and beat him at the finish. It pretty much went as I planned.
"With about a mile left I made a push on a hilly part of the course. We do quite a bit of hill training. Generally, we're a pretty strong team in hilly areas. I passed him, that put me in fourth, and I brought it in strong."
The finishers ahead of Ruttger (Drew Paradis, Lukas Gemar and Jakob Lindaas) and fifth-place Truedson) are all ranked in 2A.
Sport: Cross country running
Other sports: Alpine skiing, track and field
Career highlight: Placing ninth in 2007 state cross country meet, finishing second on 4x800 relay at 2008 state track meet, going to state in Alpine skiing, running in Nike Team Nationals
Grade-point average: 3.5
Favorite subject: AP Biology
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite TV shows: "House" and "The Office"
Favorite Web site: newschoolers.com
Hobbies: Hunting, wakeboarding, skiing, fishing, running
Future plans: Attend college hopefully on running scholarship, major in pre-med
Athlete he admires: Steve Prefontaine
Parents: Jim and Merilee Ruttger
"We're in one of those sections where there's a lot of individual talent," Warriors coach Dave Herath said. "Thomas went out somewhat conservatively, he was just over 5 minutes at the mile mark. One of the runners was at 4:48. They were really moving.
"That was his strategy, stay under control and build from there. He was fifth most of the race. The last half-mile or so he passed (Truedson) and was gaining on the other runners, with the exception of Paradis."
As Brainerd's top dog, Ruttger has been pushed by teammate Jimmy Dean, while younger teammates develop. The youngsters compensated for three seniors graduating and two others who moved before the season.
"It's been fun, but it's definitely been interesting," Ruttger said of the season. "The coaches said we've put in more minutes of running and mileage than we have any other year. I think it's mainly because we've got a younger team and we're trying to build a base.
"Last year we had four seniors. It was a blow to the team, losing those guys. We've definitely put in more work trying to make up for that. We had a couple guys step up a lot toward the middle of the season. They were breaking their personal bests in every meet. That was cool to see."
It's also cool that Ruttger has qualified for state in all three of his sports. In addition to cross country, he has skied in the state Alpine meet and run in the state track and field meet.
"It's definitely challenging," Ruttger said of being in three sports. "Sports pretty much take the majority of my time. It's kind of hard juggling three with school, but I think I got a pretty good balance on that last year.
"One of the things that's made it possible is having people on teams that I'm friends with. Last year we graduated Luke Delaney, Tyler Rose and Mitch Lorenz, three of my good friends. At the beginning of this year I was running by myself a little bit more.
"(Being with friends) is definitely something that helps. Some of my best friends are in skiing with me."
Other notable efforts;
Colby Ring, football, rushed for 154 yards and two TDs against Buffalo.
Jimmy Dean, cross country, placed ninth in the section and qualified for state.
Destiney Schindele, swimming, won two events and was on two first-place relays against Sauk Rapids.
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