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Track preview 2013 ... TMP's Ruder climbing up the list

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian senior Heather Ruder has become synonymous with track and field greatness.

An eight-time gold medalist and four-time silver medalist, Ruder admits feeling pressure to perform well in her final Class 3A state track and field meet this weekend at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.

After all, Ruder is approaching elite history.

"I'm trying to (not feel pressure), but there's always going to be pressure just because of what's happened in the past," Ruder said. "That's always going to be there, but I'm trying to block it out."

Ruder, a Kansas State University signee, qualified in four events at state: the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter run as well as the 3,200-meter relay.

With victories in the 800 and 1,600 -- her best events -- she would become the third person to win four golds in those two races, alongside Claflin's Jackie Stiles (1994-1997) and Shawnee Heights' Trisa Nickoley (2001-2004), according to Kansas track and field historian Carol Swenson.

With two individual golds, she also would become the 12th girl to win double-digit gold medals in individual events in all classifications, and if she wins all three individual events, she'll become the ninth girl to win at least 11 individual gold medals in outdoor track and field.

It's not just historical marks, either.

Her team also relies on Ruder since she has been the primary point scorer the past three seasons.

Ruder's freshman year, Ruder scored 38 points and TMP took third. The past two state meets, Ruder helped score 38 and 36 points in back-to-back state runner-up finishes. Now this season with Ruder leading the charge, TMP is once again one of the favorites to take home a trophy.

That's a lot of pressure.

Ruder said she feels it internally and externally.

"I think lot of (the pressure) is from myself, but a lot of people around me and around Hays, going out in public, people come up and talk to me," Ruder said. "So I think there is a lot (of pressure) from everyone."

However, TMP coach Matt Dumler said there is little that can happen that will tarnish her legacy.

In his mind, Ruder, also a four-time all-state cross country runner and one-time champion, is the greatest distance runner in school history.

"And I don't think there is much of a challenge there," Dumler said. "There are people who hold school records and people who have had individual state titles, but not nearly as many as Heather has and haven't dominated the sport the way Heather has -- and for such a long time."

At this point, anything she accomplishes just adds to her already mythic legacy.

"Just to be there and have her resume down, it's an accomplishment in itself, so anything we get is gravy," Dumler said.

In Ruder's mind, this could be her most challenging state championship meet yet.

There are three girls who have run faster than 2 minutes and 24 seconds in the 800, four who have run sub-5:25 in the 1,600 and three who have run sub-12:00 in the 3,200.

Ruder has posted the fastest time at 800 and 1,600 meters in 2:20.10 and 5:11.75, respectively, but her season-best time of 12:06.46 in the 3,200 is 21 seconds behind the best time of the state leader and defending champion, Hillsboro sophomore Emily Sechrist.

Sechrist and Hiawatha sophomore Jordan Puvogel, the defending 3A cross country champion, are expected to challenge Ruder in all three events.

Gypsum-Southeast of Saline freshman Allison Stutterheim (800 and 1,600), Osage City sophomore Aundrea Koger (1,600 and 3,200) and Nemaha Valley senior Ashley Rottinghaus (800 and 1,600) also are among the favorites.

"There's going to be a lot of competition," Ruder said. "I know there'll probably be more than I've had in the past, so it's going to be tough. I'm just going to go out and try my best and see what happens."

Dumler said he just wants Ruder to maintain the same mentality she's had at past state meets.

"We aren't going to change anything," he said. "She's a competitor. She is a good runner. She'll go out and do her best. That's all she knows how to do."