In a brief period last year, senior cross-country runner Tim Ross experienced both the high point and low point of his running career.
Last season, he ran a 24:01 at the Notre Dame Invitational, his personal best for an 8-kilometer course.
Shortly afterward, he hurt a tendon in his hip and was out for the season.
Ross has returned this season and has become the team's leader, coach Jared Wilmes said. Wilmes said that in previous seasons, Ross shared leadership duties with Matt Noonan and Chase Hall.
Noonan has now graduated, and Hall has completed his cross-country eligibility and is only eligible for track.
"He's the guy everybody else looks up to," Wilmes said.
Wilmes said Ross is especially helpful because he has more experience competing against top competition.
"They know they can work out with him, and they know he's good," Wilmes said.
Sophomore Garett Jeffries said Ross leads both vocally and by example.
Jeffries said Ross starts out leading by example but will also get vocal when necessary.
Ross said the injury has made him appreciate the sport more.
After the injury, he realized how much he enjoyed running with his MU teammates.
Because of the injury, Ross is being more careful this season, canceling or shortening runs when he feels pain.
In the past, he ran as hard as he could regardless of how his body felt.
In his first race of the year, Ross finished 31st at the Roy Griak Invitational in Falcon Heights, Minn., completing the 8-kilometer course in 25:32.
He was held out of the team's first race, the Missouri Cross Country Challenge, because it did not count toward NCAA qualifying.
Ross said he wants to set a new personal best but isn't dwelling on it.
He said doing it would require a great day and a great course. Ross said the Notre Dame course has in the past produced fast times.
Instead, Ross is more focused on finishing in the top 10 at the Big 12 meet, which will be held later this season in Lawrence, Kan.
He finished sixth in the conference in 2004 but missed the meet last season because of his injury.
For the conference meet, he is not focused solely on his time because the Kansas course has hills and does not generally produce the fastest times.
Wilmes said Ross has taken extra care to be there for the team, going so far as to schedule his classes around the team's practices.
"You can't find many kids like that," Wilmes said.