When, as a high school senior, Tim Ross first met Missouri cross country coach Jared Wilmes, it took Ross all of two minutes before he knew he wanted to run for the Tigers. Wilmes had traveled to Alto, Mich., to meet Ross at his home.
“I made sure I found the right coach I wanted to spend four years with,” Ross said. “I wanted to be involved with someone who had the values I thought would contribute to me being a better person.”
Ross had visited the University of Michigan, but after meeting with Wilmes he canceled the rest of his visits. Wilmes said he is thankful Ross chose the Tigers, especially after Ross was the top Missouri runner in each of his first three meets.
Now, as a junior, Ross is still impressing his coach, placing sixth Oct. 30 at the Big 12 Championships, the highest a Missouri men’s runner finished at the event in 25 years.
Despite struggles, huge accomplishments
What made Ross’ run even more impressive was that he had been struggling, by his standards, for the better part of a month. After winning the first meet of the season, the Mizzou Cross Country Challenge on Sept. 11, he sat out the team’s next meet as Wilmes went with a younger squad for the Woody Greeno Invitational. Ross finished second on the team to junior Matt Noonan in the next two races with a 67th and then a 83rd. Then came his historic run at the Big 12 Championships.
Ross is hoping to perform as well Sunday at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Peoria, Ill. He said he is confident his training has put him in a position for his second consecutive top 25 finish to earn All-Region Honors.
“My best chance for a big race is coming up,” Ross said. “I couldn’t be any more ready than I am heading into this weekend.”
Ross said the difference was talking to the person he is closest to, his dad, Dennis. His dad told him he was making running too complicated. Ross wasn’t getting to the front fast enough like he would do in high school.
“Rather than sit back in the pack like I’d done in previous meets,” Ross said, “I got out immediately to the front like I used to do in high school, and everything clicked again. Everything clicked on the right day, which hadn’t happened yet this season.”
It was not surprising Ross sought advice from his father and other friends back home in Michigan. He talks to several of his friends at least once a week and as often as every other day. Ross said it helped ease his transition from Michigan to Missouri.
“My support system is the number one reason why I am still running,” Ross said.
Family ties an important bond for Ross
Ross is so close to his friends and family back home that teammate and neighbor Chase Hall sometimes finds it difficult to get a hold of him.
“I’ll try and call him for an hour until I finally get through,” Hall said. “He’ll say, ‘Oh, sorry, I was just talking to my family.’”
Last summer, Ross went home to be with his family while most the team stayed in Columbia.
Wilmes said he knew Ross’ family is important to him, and that is one of the reasons Ross was able to go home.
“We have a family here of people that cared about him, and he could sense that,” Wilmes said. “But he wanted to be a part of his family’s lives as well.”
Rugged determination and a strong work ethic have proven successful
It’s not as if Ross was taking a vacation from running, though. During the season, Ross will run 70 miles a week. Over the summer, he increased to 85. Ross would wake up at 6 a.m. and run. When he was finished with that run, he would sleep for three to four hours on his couch, and then run again. Sometimes, Ross even added a night run to his schedule.
“I know that if I can get up and do that,” Ross said, “I am on my way to being a better runner.”
Ross said what separates him from other runners is his strong desire to win.
“When I step to the line, I need to want it more,” Ross said. “And I do want it more than the other people running.”
Hall said Ross’ dedication is what enables him to be so successful.
“His work ethic is as good as it comes,” Hall said. “He’s the kind of guy you never have to worry about working. You see his commitment reflected in everything. He has turned running into a whole lifestyle.”
Ross said he and his teammates are hoping the work they put in this season results in a berth in the NCAA Championship meet, Nov. 22. The top two teams from Saturday’s regional meet will automatically advance to the championships.
The Missouri women’s team is ranked No.1 in the Midwest Region and expected to advance to No. 9 in the nation.
Amanda Bales, Valerie Lauver, Jill Petersen and Serena Ramsey all earned NCAA Midwest Region Honors last year and will again lead the team this year.
The men’s team, though, will have a tougher time moving on. The Tigers are ranked seventh in a region featuring two top 25 schools in the nation.
“(The men’s team) is going to take everyone having a great day on the same day,” Wilmes said. “It’s hard to do in cross country, especially since we don’t have the depth we do on the women’s side. They can afford to have a girl having an off day. The guys can’t.”