COLUMBIA — As a child, Phil King did not want anything to do with running. Now, though, King, a senior on the Missouri cross country team, averages 80 to 100 miles a week.
King's mother says it took a while for her son to see any reason to stick with the sport.
After a strong performance at the Missouri Cross-Country Challenge last weekend, the Misouri women's cross-country team now sits sixth in the USTFCCA Midwest Region rankings, two spots better their preseason ranking. After five runners placing in the top eight last weekend, Mizzou now ranks above Big 12 schools Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma.
“I would really have to make him go. You don’t have a choice, you have to go running,” Suzanne King said.
Even with the push of his mother, Phil King was still unsure about his running career.
“I didn’t want to run because I wasn’t interested," he said. "I was more interested in physical sports because with running there isn’t a whole lot of other things that you do besides running.”
But after being entered in an 800-meter race in the Show-Me State Games in fifth grade, Phil King had a change of heart.
“Once I got into racing that’s when I really started loving the sport,” he said.
Although she had never been part of a team, Suzanne King had tried running in college and quickly made it part of her life. She thought it could benefit her son, too.
“I could see the value in being a runner," Suzanne King said. "It is something you can do for the rest of your life. I just saw potential and tried to train him myself.”
While Phil King’s love for running was growing, entering high school he was still unsure of whether or not to try out for soccer or cross country. After breaking his arm during the first day of soccer tryouts, he had his answer. That spring he joined the Rock Bridge track team, and he has been running competitively ever since.
As a senior, Phil King earned all state honors with a third-place finish for the Bruins at the 2006 MSHSAA Class 4 cross-country championships and went on to another third at the Midwest Footlocker Championships.
When it came time to choose a college, Phil King knew exactly where he would go. His mother had gone to MU for medical school, so he would become a runner for the Tigers.
“I wanted to be close to home partly to still be close to my mom ... also, I got a good scholarship offer from Mizzou,” he said.
With the Tigers, Phil King earned all-Big 12 honors in the 10,000 meters as a sophomore in 2009. But, as he was in high school, he has been hampered by injuries, and at last weekend's Missouri Cross Country Challenge, he sat out with an ailing hip after winning the event last season.
“I am concentrating on the moment, not so much the future," he said. "No matter what I will keep running.”
Phil King said he looks forward to following in his mother’s footsteps by going to medical school, where he has an interest in sports medicine. Suzanne King is a psychiatrist at the MU Medical Center.
“I got to see how rewarding the career really is," Phil King said. "I was exposed to it so much that I really got to see what the procedure is like. My mom takes a very positive and enthusiastic approach towards pretty much everything."
Phil King has applied for 12 medical schools, but his top choices are MU, Washington University, and Baylor.