Interview with Missy Buttry
By Alison Wade

Missy Buttry finishes third at the USA Fall Cross Country Championships.
(Photo: Randy Miyazaki -

Though she's only halfway through her sophomore year at Iowa's Wartburg College, Missy Buttry has already collected three NCAA Division III national titles. As a freshman she won titles at 1,500 meters both indoors and outdoors. As a sophomore, she's won a cross country title - by a whopping 55 seconds - and will look to add to her collection at the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championships March 14-15 at DePauw University. Buttry has already set PRs this season of 4:29.36 (1,500m) and 9:20.85 (3,000m); the latter broke the Wartburg school record by one minute. She has also run 2:12 in the 800, 16:44.88 for 5,000m on the track and 16:35 for a cross country 5k.

We caught up with Buttry while she was at home for spring break. Which events do you plan on running at nationals?
Missy Buttry: As of now, I'm going to do the distance medley and the 1,500.

FW: What is your goal in the 1,500?
MB: It's definitely to win it again. I'd also like to run 4:20, but my first goal and focus is to win it again.

FW: So you want to take nine seconds off your PR?
MB: Yeah.

FW: Will you have much competition, is there anyone that can push you to a 4:20?
MB: I don't know exactly who's going to run it. Mary Proulx (of Keene State) ran it last year; I don't know if she's decided to run it again this year or if she's doing the 5k, but she'll be up there. I was looking at [the qualifiers' times] and there's a freshman (Robyn Burns) who has run 4:32, so I'm sure she'll be up there too.

FW: Is it hard to do the 1,500/DMR double? How does the schedule work out?
MB: On Friday I'll run my 1,500 prelim. and the distance medley, and then on Saturday I'll have my final of the 1,500.

FW: Are you pretty good at running multiple races at one meet?
MB: Yeah. Actually, I got used to it in high school because I used to triple up at all of our meets.

FW: Speaking of high school, what kind of times did you run in high school and what were your major accomplishments?
MB: My fastest cross country time -- we ran two miles -- was 11:20. I got all-state my freshman year and then I won state my sophomore year. I was hurt my junior and senior years and didn't run very well. In track, my fastest time for the 1,500 was a 4:45, and I ran 10:36 for the 3,000 and 2:17 for the 800. I won the 800 and the 1,500 my senior year at state and I went to state all four years.

FW: How did you end up deciding to attend Wartburg?
MB: Actually, I was homeschooled (but she ran for Shenandoah High School). I picked it somewhat because of its size; my parents weren't sure about me jumping into a big school after being homeschooled, and I'm from a small town. So the size was part of it and my faith in God is really big to me, so the Christian [affiliation was a factor]. Both Coach (Steve) Johnson and Coach (Marcus) Newsom are strong Christians and I liked that about them. I liked them both as coaches after talking to them on the phone. So most of [the decision was based] on the cross country program and the Christian aspect of it.

FW: Did you have any idea that you would become a national champion so early on in your running career?
No, I didn't. I had talked to coach about it, halfway through my freshman cross country season, but it was more of a long-term goal that we kind of looked at for maybe my junior or senior year. So I wasn't expecting it. My goals were just to be All-American and qualify for nationals and stuff.

FW: You've had a pretty dramatic improvement since high school, do you have any idea what's caused it?
I know from my freshman year of cross country to this last year of cross country I put in a lot more miles. I think I was doing 40 miles (per week) my freshman year and then I jumped up to like 60-65 miles, so I think that had a lot to do with it. I got on a better weight training program and I also switched my diet around so it was a lot healthier; I think it was just a combination of all of those things.

FW: When did you first notice the improvement? Was it something that happened suddenly or gradually?
We had an alumni meet (last fall) and I didn't really notice it. My first meet was our first 6k so I didn't know what time was good for that or anything... I think it was more in the middle of the season, coach and I both started noticing it, so I think it was more of a gradual thing.

FW: Are there women on your team who can keep up with you during training or are you mostly on your own?
Actually, I've started training mostly with our guys' team.

FW: Can you keep up with the top guys on the team?
There's probably about five guys that I can't keep up with. On their slower days they'll come back and run with me and help push me along... But there's probably about five to seven guys that I can't run with in intervals. After that, I fall in with a group and we run about the same pace-wise.

FW: Do you like running with the guys or do you wish you could run with the women?
I kind of have mixed feelings about it. I like running with the guys, they're really fun and they're really accepting of me and encouraging and stuff, but sometimes I feel kind of out of the loop with the girls. On that side, I wish I could run with them more often. I still do our pre-meets with them and stuff though.

FW: You've already won three national titles, where do you go from here? Do you plan on racing against more Division I teams or finding open races to challenge yourself?
Yeah. Actually, my coach and I have talked a lot about that after cross country... We're running at Florida State a weekend in March, then I'm going to the Texas Relays, I'm going to try to qualify for the Mt. SAC Relays... So they're trying to find me better competition with Division I schools. I'm also trying to qualify for the USA National Outdoor Championships, and I think we're going to start focusing more on that. I'm still going to focus on the national meets and winning (Division III) nationals, but we'll try to focus more on the bigger meets.

FW: Has transferring to a Division I school crossed your mind, or is that sort of an insult to imply that you need the Division I competition?
Actually it has crossed my mind. My coach and I had a lot of discussions about it after cross country... [I felt] I needed someone there to push me along in the races and he said that he saw that. We talked a lot about it... I checked out a couple schools, like Arkansas and Colorado, but then I talked to both my coaches and they were willing to put out the money and the effort to get me to the bigger meets. I really like the Wartburg team and I like my coaches.

FW: So you're going to stay there?

FW: Have you thought about your goals for the outdoor season yet?
Yes. Coach and I haven't quite decided what I'm running at nationals. I'll run the 1,500 again but then we're deciding between the 800 and the 5k. I definitely want to win nationals in whatever I run. My big goal is to make it to the U.S. Outdoor Nationals.

FW: In the 1,500?
Yeah. We're going to try to qualify in both the 1,500 and the 5k.

FW: You ran the Fall Nationals in California (she finished third behind Shayne Culpepper and Jenelle Deatherage). What was that experience like and why did you decide to go there?
The experience was awesome, I loved every second of it. My coach actually came up to me one day when I was working in our P.E. complex and he asked me what I thought about running [there]. I told him of course I wanted to... He got it all set up, he took me out there and my sister met us out there. The experience was really neat, just going up against that type of competition. I loved it and I thought it was really a great race.

FW: Was it a good confidence booster?
Yeah, it definitely was. You never really know where you're at until you get into something like that.

FW: Did you consider doing the Winter Cross Country Nationals in Houston?
My coach and I had talked about it right after that meet, but then we decided that we would start getting into indoor and we had some goals set up for track... We decided just to make the switch over to track and leave cross country and maybe leave that for some later time.

FW: Do you consider yourself more of a track or cross country runner?
I don't know, it kind of depends on the season. Last year I was all about track. I think track has always been my favorite sport because I was really, really close to my high school track coach... During high school I was all about track and everything, but I had a lot of fun this year in cross country and our team was really close. But I think I'm more of a track person.

FW: What kind of training are you doing to prepare for the 1,500 right now?
Through the indoor I've been mainly just getting a base, but now we're starting -- as it's getting closer to nationals and outdoor season -- to drop in more intervals. We probably do like two speed workouts a week. Our speed workouts will vary. At the start of the season we were doing 1,200s, but now we've started doing 800s... This week, tomorrow I'm supposed to go out and do five 600s and a couple 200s. Now I'll mostly be doing repeat 800s, 600s and 400s, and then once we get closer to nationals, I'll probably be doing 200s.

FW: Has it been hard training through the Iowa winter?
(Laughs) Yes. January wasn't too bad but February was kind of tough. It's been really cold and snowy.

FW: Do you do much of your running indoors?
Actually we do all of our running outside.

FW: Really? Do you not have an indoor track?
We have an indoor track but it's only like 160 meters. [Coach Johnson] will bring us in maybe once a week on the indoor track, but it's not very good and you can get shin splints on it easily, so he doesn't really like to have us on that too much.

FW: So what have the temperatures been like outdoors?
I think the coldest day was about 20 degrees with the wind-chill.

FW: Do you have a good winter running wardrobe?
I think we all had piles of clothes on that day.

FW: What event do you think you'll focus on ultimately?
My coach and I were talking about that and I think eventually my race will turn out to be the 5k. But right now, we want to work on getting my 1,500 and my 800 time down.

FW: What are you majoring in at school?
Social work.

FW: When you graduate is that something you want to pursue, or are you thinking about trying to run full time?
I've always wanted to pursue a running career, so I'm definitely focused on that right now. I also know that social work is something that I will want to do down the road, maybe after my running career.

FW: Do you have other runners in your family?
Yeah, my older sister. She was All-American in track for Dana College in Nebraska (an NAIA school).

FW: We got the sense from your answering machine that you have a big family...
I have 11 brothers and sisters.

FW: Where do you fall in that?
I'm the third (oldest). My older brother and sister and I are biological siblings and then my nine younger brothers and sisters are all adopted.

FW: Do you think any of your younger siblings will follow in your footsteps as a runner?
Yeah, my younger brother is 14 and he did track last year and he's more of a short-distance runner like 200 and 400, but he did really well. The rest aren't competing quite yet, but they've done some fun runs and stuff.

(Interview conducted March 4, 2003, posted March 10, 2003)

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