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Division III’s first couple

Andrew Rock and Missy Buttry excelled as distance runners at separate schools, flourished in international competition and went on to get married

There is a home in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul whose residents own an Olympic gold medal and 23 Division III individual track and cross country championships.

It also is the home of a father and mother and three children – and following the example of mom’s family in Iowa, it includes adopted daughters from India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Missy Buttry, one of 14 children (including 11 adopted brothers and sisters) of Don and Pam Buttry, dominated Division III distance running during her time at Wartburg, becoming the first woman in any NCAA division to win three individual national championships in cross country (and first man or woman to win three consecutive years). She also claimed 11 track titles, including winning six indoor and outdoor 1,500-meter championships and anchoring two distance medley relay championship teams.

Andrew Rock collected nine individual titles himself representing Wisconsin-LaCrosse at Division III championships and helped lead the Eagles to eight Division III indoor and outdoor team titles, before collecting a gold medal just months after graduation as a member of the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Buttry and Rock met along the way and then married in 2007 while still involved in international competition, bringing under one roof arguably the two greatest collegiate runners in Division III history.

Now, they have made a home outside the Twin Cities, where Andrew became head track and field coach at Division III member Bethel in 2012 after serving for two years as an assistant coach at Carleton.

“I try hard to inspire these athletes to reach a level they don’t think is possible,” he told the Wisconsin-LaCrosse alumni magazine last spring when, with his team in tow, he returned as a coach to the Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships – hosted by his alma mater.

Andrew said he had no dreams of Olympic glory when he enrolled at the university, and in fact even doubted he should go out for track. But just as he was pushed to excel by his coach, Mark Guthrie, he now works to inspire student-athletes at Bethel – and has a pretty good personal story to back it up.

“I talk about being the best you can be and that you don’t know where that is going to lead you,” he told the UW-L Lantern. “I achieved a goal I never thought was possible.”

Missy also aspired to international success, twice qualifying for the U.S. women’s cross country team and helping win a bronze medal at the 2005 world championships, but was held back by injuries during her post-collegiate career.

Both Andrew and Missy believe they were helped along by their Division III experiences. In a 2004 interview with The NCAA News, just before she won her third cross country title, Missy noted that four Division III student-athletes (including herself) qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, and then pointed to Andrew’s medal run two months earlier at the Athens games.

“So, just because we’re at Division III schools, that doesn’t mean we’re not good athletes. It might be a better atmosphere for us, and what we needed to excel in our sport.”

When Andrew settled in at the starting line in international competition, he reminded himself of the confidence developed through preparation and the ability to handle stress and accept results that he gained at Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

“The significance of my experience at UW-L is not just that I got to go to the Olympics, but the learning that carried over into my life now in my job and in other areas,” he told the Lantern.