There is more to Rock Bridge’s Phillip King than quick feet and long strides.
While he has developed into one of the state’s top cross country runners this season, he has also set high standards for himself outside of the sport. He is the consumate student-athlete, achieving success in the classroom and on the race course.
He insists the two are related.
“Cross country takes a lot of effort,” King said. “It’s the same with school. You have to have a good mind-set and push yourself to learn.”
The high school junior flaunts a 3.9 grade point average and challenges himself with courses such as advanced placement English and advanced placement U.S. studies.
Bruins’ coach Neal Blackburn said the school’s cross country program has been lucky to have had some exceptional students like King over the past few years. Developing a good work ethic, he said, is a common characteristic between athletics and academics.
“The same motivation it takes to be a good student it takes to be a good cross country runner,” Blackburn said. “To be a good cross country runner, you have to be intelligent enough to know how to treat your body and how to train.”
King said he has discovered the formula to do that.
He was a track runner and a soccer player before joining the cross country team last season. Though he entered this season with only limited experience, King has been running with a newfound confidence. It is a confidence that has stemmed from an intense training schedule and from seeing that hard work translate into top results. King’s training regimen typically includes hard track workouts twice during a school week, with lighter, longer mileage workouts the other three days.
“He wasn’t putting in some of the dominant performances last year that he is now,” Blackburn said. “But you could see that he was improving by leaps and bounds. Now, he approaches every race knowing he could win it.”
King knows he can win each race because he has consistently done so all season. Out of six meets this season, King has placed first in four of them.
“I am just trying to position myself in the top group of people,” said King, who set his personal best time of 16 minutes, 11 seconds at the Oct. 1 Parkway West Invitational. “I try to push myself to do my best.”
Blackburn said this is the type of attitude that King’s teammates need to emulate.
“He has an attitude that says not only ‘I can do it,’ but ‘I will do it,’” Blackburn said.
King has set his goals high for this Saturday’s Class 4 sectional meet. Those goals include breaking the 16-minute mark and finishing in the top three. He also hopes to lead his team to a top-four finish, which would earn it a spot in the state meet for the third time in 33 years.
“All of us are going to have to run hard,” King said. “Our coach has put a lot of effort into training us.”
But while his coach has helped guide and train him, King is responsible for putting that instruction into practice. King has mastered the techniques needed to be a successful runner. And it turns out they are the same techniques that make him successful in the classroom.
“He is such a good listener,” Blackburn said. “When he receives instruction, there is no question he is going to do it fantastically and do it immediately.”