The Maneater

Men’s cross-country led by English duo

Thomas George came to Missouri right out of high school while Kieran Wood is a graduate transfer.

Missouri cross country runners prepare for the SEC Championships on Oct. 11.

MU cross-country athletes Thomas George and Kieran Wood grew up just 125 miles apart from each other in England. By coincidence, they both chose to continue their running careers in, of all places, Missouri, but how they ended up here is quite different.

The tandem looks poised to lead the men’s cross-country squad this season. In the season-opening meet at Brooks Twilight, which the team collectively won, George was the top Tiger. He finished third in the overall field with a four mile time of 20:14.04. Wood wasn’t far behind, checking in at 20:36.15 and finishing eighth overall.

George was recruited straight out of high school and was on coach Marc Burns’ radar for some time. When Burns was still coaching at Bradley University, he pursued George and his twin brother, Alex, who would eventually commit to another Southeastern Conference school in Arkansas.

Thomas decided to stay home another year and by that time, Burns already had taken over at Missouri. He still pursued the George brothers, even though he now coached at a different school. He was able to get Thomas on board, but it wasn’t a seamless transition.

“My first few years here were kind of rough,” George said. “I had some personal struggles and because of the American diet, I didn’t eat right. I put on a lot of weight and was out of shape.”

Wood, however, took an entirely different route to the Midwest. He was also heavily recruited out of high school, but didn’t feel ready to move away from home, so he ran in England as an undergraduate for three years (In England, college is often three years long.)

By the end of his undergraduate years, he felt ready for a bigger challenge, and decided to compete in the SEC as a graduate transfer. Per NCAA rules, he will likely have two years of eligibility at Missouri.

The two were familiar with each other across the pond, so Wood isn’t the least bit surprised to see his fellow countryman have such success at the Tigers’ first meet of 2018.

“I ran against Thomas and his brother for years in England, so I’ve seen what he can do,” Wood said. “I think he’s running better now than ever before and that should really scare a lot of our opponents.”

Burns is ecstatic to have such sound leadership in the program and believes both guys can accomplish great things, despite their unconventional paths to Missouri.

“There was a definite transition for both of them, but that’s to be expected,” he said. “It’s a new school on a new continent. I look forward to watching them continue to blossom as the year goes on. I’m expecting big things from them.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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