Lake Mead Christian Academy senior runner Shay Rutledge can’t wait to get healthy and join his teammates on the track.
Key word: teammates.
He didn’t have any last year.
Rutledge, who placed third in the 1,600-meter run at the Class 2A state meet last season as Lake Mead’s only athlete, has fostered the expansion of the school’s track and field program, which now features 19 athletes.
He’s recovering from a series of lower body injuries but expects to return next month, giving him ample time to lead the program he worked to build.
“Shay’s leadership has inspired others to buy into the program,” said Jeff Newton, Lake Mead’s athletics director and track and field coach. “The kids look up to him, too. He does a good job leading by example.”
Rutledge developed a passion for running while growing up in southwestern Ontario, Canada. He moved to Las Vegas when he was 11 years old and enrolled at Lake Mead because of its Christian values.
The school didn’t have track or cross country, though, so he opted for basketball — until former principal Mark Eisman started cross country before Rutledge’s sophomore year.
“I fell in love with the sport,” Rutledge said. “I decided to go after it and try and get a scholarship. That became my love over basketball.”
Rutledge guided the Eagles’ cross country team to a second-place finish at the Class 2A state meet in 2016. He continued to play basketball through his junior season and led Lake Mead in scoring before spraining his ankle at the end of the year.
After sitting out a couple weeks, Rutledge ran track and field last spring as Lake Mead’s lone competitor under the direction of his mother, Jeanine, who completed paperwork to serve as his coach.
“He coached himself,” she said. “I was the representative for the school, but he was definitely his own coach in terms of setting the bar for his progress.”
Rutledge aspired to run collegiately and began contacting prospective schools, before deciding on Division-II Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, New York.
He powered through the summer and was an all-state selection in cross country last season. But the ankle injury caught up to him and he developed plantar fasciitis and shin splints — causing him to miss basketball season.
He isn’t running yet, but he has no doubt he’ll be ready soon — to join the teammates he never had.
“I’ve never thought about it like ‘Oh, I’m a pioneer of the sport (at Lake Mead),’” he said. “I like running, and this is what I’m doing.”
Shay Rutledge’s personal records:
800m — 2:13.82
1,600m — 4:48.34
3,200m — 10:48.57
2.5 mile (cross country) — 14:47.00
3 mile (cross country) — 16:19.00
5K (cross country) — 16:41.00