Missouri Southern men’s track and field and cross country coach Tom Rutledge will headline a group of three individuals to be enshrined into the Missouri Southern Athletic Hall of Fame on October 4 at the Lions’ Homecoming game against Washburn.
Joining Rutledge will be football player Terry Dobbs and former volleyball player Neely Burkhart.
The newest class will be present at an alumni banquet on Friday night before speaking at the alumni brunch and participating in the Homecoming parade on Saturday. Then they will be introduced, honored and officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at halftime of the Homecoming football game during the afternoon.
Below are short biographies on each of the three to be honored and inducted into the Hall of Fame in October:
Men’s Track and Field & Cross Country Coach (1989-present)
Rutledge has led the Lions for the past 19 seasons and has helped the Missouri Southern Track and Field and Cross Country programs become a dominant force in the MIAA. Since 2000, Rutledge’s cross country teams have claimed seven MIAA Championships, including the last three in a row. This past season, the Lions took home the South Central Region Title, defeating eventual national champion Abilene Christian and had five runners place in the top 12. The Lions have also claimed two MIAA Indoor Track and Field Titles (2004 and 2007), giving Rutledge nine MIAA Championships in the last eight years.
He has been a four-time MIAA Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year, as well as the MIAA Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year award in both 2004 and 2007. Rutledge earned South Central Region Indoor Track Coach of the Year honors in 1999, 2004 and 2007, and was the Cross Country Regional Coach of the Year this past year.
Rutledge’s cross country teams have made seven appearances in the last eight years at the NCAA Division II National Meet, and he has coached five cross country and 26 track and field All-Americans in his career. In 2005, Rutledge’s pole vaulters took home the top five places at the MIAA Outdoor Championships and finished first through third at the NCAA Division II Championships.
Tom and his wife, Karen, have two sons, Chad and Kyle. Kyle was an All-American pole vaulter at Southern and is an assistant track and field coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Burkhart was a four-year starter at outside hitter for the Lions and served as a two-year captain. She ranks in the top ten in six different career categories at Southern including first in digs (1,776), second in aces (211), third in attack attempts (3,957), fourth in kills (1,421), fourth in hitting (.268) and tenth in games played (445).
She also ranks high in the single-season records at Southern. Burkhart has the seventh highest hitting percentage (.348 in 1996), is ninth in both attack attempts and kills, sixth and eighth in digs, and second and ninth in service aces. She holds the Southern record for attack attempts in a three-game match (58), kills in a four game match (31), and hitting percentage in a three game match (.800/12-15). Burkhart had one of the best seasons ever as a Lion in 1996 as she helped Southern to a 20-11 record and led the team in games (113) and matches played (31) as well as attack attempts (1,105) and aces (53).
Burkhart was an honorable mention All-MIAA selection in 1994 and a second team selection in both 1995 and 1996. She was an academic All-MIAA selection in 1994-96, as well as a second team Academic All-American in 1995 and first team selection in 1996. The MSSU Outstanding Graduate of 1998, she was a member of the Southern Honors Program and received the NACDA Post Graduate Scholarship.
A Joplin native, Burkhart graduated from Southern in 1998 with a degree in Biology and went on to earn her MS in Physical Therapy from the University of Kansas in 2000. She has served from that point as a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Freeman Health System in Joplin, being the primary physical therapist for Southern athletes and occasionally filling in as an athletic trainer.
Dobbs was a four year starter at place kicker and a back-up punter for the Lions in the early 80’s. He was an All-Conference and All-District selection during his tenure at Southern and holds several school records.
Dobbs holds the record for most career points scored by a kicker (192 – 30 fg, 102 extra points), as well as the most extra points made in a career (102), most extra points attempted in a game (10), most field goals made and attempted in a career (30-51) and he is tied for the second longest field goal in Southern history (52 yards). Dobbs also ranks sixth on the all-time scoring list.
Dobbs is a 1985 graduate of Southern with a marketing management degree and has served for the past nine years as the operations coordinator for Yellow Transportation in Dallas, Texas.
With the addition of the 2008 class, the MSSU Athletics Hall of Fame now includes 85 members and two teams.