PITTSBURG — Pittsburg State track & field star Tanner McNutt is no stranger to adversity.
Despite not getting much attention coming out of high school, McNutt cemented his spot in the Pitt State record books with standout performances in multiple events over his four-year career with the Gorillas.
“This journey at Pitt State has just been life changing,” McNutt said. “My coaches and teammates have done so much for me. It’s amazing to see different athletes come from different walks of life and work together to win the championship. Just the bond we make is amazing.”
The four-time high school state champion out of Humboldt wasn’t recruited heavily, but caught the eye of PSU track & field head coach Russ Jewett.
“Honestly, I didn’t even have any other colleges recruiting me other than PSU,” McNutt said. “Coach Jewett wanted me to run the 800-meters, because that was my best event in high school. I ended up changing my workout regimen that summer and gained 15 to 20 pounds before I even came to Pitt State. That’s when they knew they would have to make me a multi-event athlete.”
Throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons, McNutt competes in 15 different disciplines in both track and field events.
“It’s time consuming,” McNutt said. “We practice for a lot of different events and it’s hard. You go through all of the training cycles, and it’s a series of getting beat up and resting. Going into nationals, I didn’t compete well in my first event, the 60-meters. I didn’t run the time I wanted to, but I couldn’t let that get to me because it would have had a snowball effect and I wouldn’t have done well in the following events. I just had to pick myself back up and move on to the next event.”
Now in his senior season with the Gorillas, McNutt is a three-time NCAA national runner-up and a two-time conference champion in the heptathlon, holding the indoor school record of 5,559.
He’s also a conference champion in the decathlon with the indoor school record of 7,406.
In addition, McNutt is a three-time All-American and has garnered All-MIAA honors four times.
“I had a lot of adversity coming into the season,” McNutt said. “I was student teaching, so I was in school all day and then worked out during the evening. But, I ended up competing well in December and qualified for nationals. Then after Christmas break, I tweaked my hamstring and had to battle that for nearly a month to be healthy for the conference meet.”
Although he wasn’t 100%, McNutt did a little bit of everything to help the Gorillas win the MIAA title.
“I knew the conference championship would be a challenge, but I just had to believe in myself,” McNutt said. “I got through conference, did my job there, and then had to rest again for nationals. It took a lot of perseverance, but I just had to get through it. Thankfully my experience helped me in that process.”
The momentum from winning the conference carried over to the national championship, as McNutt placed second in the heptathlon.
“The feeling began to set in that night and that weekend that we were champions,” McNutt said. “I took those days off to celebrate and reflect, but now I’m transitioning into the outdoor season. We did something that potentially never happen again. The stars have to align to win one, but we did it and I was thrilled to be apart of it.”
After a short time of celebration, McNutt and the rest of the Gorillas began preparing for the next opportunity.
“I don’t see winning the championship as a distraction moving forward, but as a boost in confidence,” McNutt said. “There are a few athletes who only compete in outdoor track & field, and I think that’s motivation for them to keep the momentum going as well.”
With one more season to compete as a Gorilla, McNutt said he’s going to enjoy the time he has left while continuing to think about the future.
“I definitely want to coach, but I don’t know if I want to do it at the high school or elementary school level,” he said. “I like both sides. I had a lot of great coaches who did a lot for me over the years, and I just want to give back in that aspect. I want to coach one day and hopefully get them to where they want to be. I want to help them grow, while I also grow as a person.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.