At UChicago, the three-season athletes on the running teams rarely rest. However, for the rest of us, it is worth pausing to recognize their excellence on the course. This past cross-country season, third-year team captain Ryan Cutter turned in a phenomenal series of performances, adding to an already impressive career résumé. Winning the 8K races at both the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships and the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championships, Cutter led the team into the top five at both competitions. The Maroons then went on to earn a spot in the NCAA Division III National Championships, where Cutter capped the season with a top 10 finish.
Reflecting on last quarter’s competitions, Cutter attributed his personal gains to two things: consistency and having the right mindset. In many ways, Cutter highlighted the importance of embracing the daily grind, stressing that “nothing that you do on any one given day is going to make you a good runner. It’s about putting it all together and getting at the sum of work.” Though Cutter’s All-American season certainly indicates his natural talent as a runner, he pushed back on the idea that his success stems from something special, saying, “I don’t have any secret to what’s gotten me better. It’s just being consistent.”
Though Cutter’s persistence and hard work certainly contributed to his award-winning season, Cutter also stressed the significance of his team. Though a casual observer might view running as an individual sport, Cutter made clear that such an assumption could not be further from the truth.
“The interesting thing about cross country is that I can be the number one runner for the team, but I’m not the important piece,” Cutter said. Explaining that multiple athletes need to place well for the whole group to do so, Cutter highlighted the team-oriented nature of long-distance running. He attributed some of his personal success to this part of the sport, stating that “the sense that you’re running for other people is what can elevate you individually to be better. It gives you a lot of extra motivation and pushes you to dig deeper than you would otherwise than if there weren’t other people relying on you.”
In keeping with this mentality and demonstrating why he holds the position of team captain, Cutter told me, “I’ve always been someone that wants to see all my teammates succeed.” Not taking himself too seriously, Cutter conveyed that his captaincy has not affected his mentality or changed his demeanor. Rather, Cutter views his heightened responsibility as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of hard work to his teammates, leading by example more than anything else. In fact, Cutter reflected, “I see myself as someone who can set the tone for the team and show that being consistent and just being committed to the process and trusting the training and your teammates can really lead you to elevate.”
Though Cutter and the Maroons have shifted their focus to the indoor track and field season, I did ask Cutter to reflect on his favorite moment from the fall. Once again, he focused on the team instead of himself, choosing a meet in which they scored a perfect 15 points, something Cutter told me had never been accomplished under their current head coach. Though Cutter could have selected one of his multiple championship victories, the highlight of his season centered on the team.
Humble to the core, Cutter embodies what it means to be a champion, but perhaps more importantly, what it means to be a teammate. If last fall was any indication, those qualities will undoubtedly serve him well this indoor season and beyond.