European edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Runner Kyle Southard goes to just about any length to pick up points for the Ramstein track team.

Southard, the reigning DODDS-Europe 800-meter champion, was expected to do well in cross country and track when he arrived at Ramstein as junior. As a freshman at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, he had run a 4-minute, 23-second mile.

But what wasn’t anticipated was that he would be able to deliver points in so many different events.

“He’s very versatile,” Ramstein assistant coach Dennis Edwards said Tuesday of Southard, who scores consistently for the Royals in cross country as well as the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 in track. “So many track events are 800 meters or increments of 800 meters that we can plug a person like Kyle in at a lot of places.”

Case in point was last year’s European track and field championships. Southard, who placed ninth in the 2005 Big Schools cross- country meet and second to Lakenheath’s Greg Billington in 2006, earned 10 team points by winning the 800 in 1:58.01, the fastest winning time this century; added six for a third-place finish in the 1,500 (4:07.13); and ran opening legs on Ramstein’s 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams that scored 18 more team points.

Altogether, Southard was in on 34 of Ramstein’s 65 total team points.

Look for more of the same next week, when the 2007 Europeans open a two-day run May 18 at the Wiesbaden city track. Southard posted a personal-best 1:57.52 April 28 on his home track at Ramstein, and has qualified for the Europeans in the 400, 800, 1,500 and 3,000.

“I guess you’d say the 800 is my forte,” said Southard, now an 18-year-old senior bound for the U.S. Air Force Academy. “It’s just two quick laps and it’s over.”

Southard’s favorite event, however, is the 1,500, where his season best is 4:08.94.

“The 1,500 is more strategic,” he said. “You have to focus more. It’s a thinking man’s race.”

That sort of event is perfect for Southard, whose training is largely self-prescribed.

“I’m a physics and math teacher,” Edwards said. “Kyle knows more than I do about training for his events. We have a program at practice during the season, but mornings and off-season, it’s all his doing.”

Southard said the season determines the regimen.

“For cross-country, I’ll run 80 miles a week,” he said. “For track, I’ll run 40-50-60 miles and do more speed work.”

Southard has the second-best times in DODDS-Europe this season in the 1,500 and 3,000. However, the top times in each (4:03.01 and 8:45.36) have been posted by Billington, the U.S. national junior triathlon team member. But even though Southard and Billington are the sort of competitors who go all out to win, they do so respectfully.

“We’re friendly rivals,” Southard said. “I’ve talked to Greg a few times this season. In fact, Greg and (Ramstein teammate) Kevin Edwards and a bunch of us are going to Finland together this summer.”

It’s the sort of trip that appeals to Southard.

“I like the camaraderie of distance running,” he said.

Camaraderie will be the order of the day this fall, too, when Southard joins former Ramstein teammate Noah Sheppard at the academy, his place on the Falcons’ cross-country and track teams already ensured.

Sheppard, however, will be an upperclassman, Southard a lowly plebe. Southard, however, is counting on that camaraderie to help him out.

“Hopefully,” he said, “they’ll take care of me.”

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