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Carter, Patrick fall flat at nationals

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The Dickinson Press
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The cross country season finale wasn’t what Dickinson State head coach Mike Nekuda had envisioned.

Sophomore Dante Carter and senior Denis Patrick failed to meet expectations finishing 132nd and 145th, respectively, at the NAIA national championships Saturday morning. Nekuda was surprised by their performance and had no explanation for what happened, but said the blame falls on his shoulders.

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“They are hard workers. They’re gutsy racers so if you’re going to pin anything on anybody it’s probably on me, because these guys don’t just not perform,” Nekuda said. “I never question their work ethic or how hard they race or anything like that. They legitimately had really bad days and it was just one of those things where maybe I got to look at how we’re doing stuff or this or that.”

Halfway through the race, Carter was in All-American range at 25th place, but suddenly his performance hit a wall and everything started to unravel for both runners. Carter’s final time was 26 minutes, 11.36 seconds and Patrick finished at 26:17.65. The course for nationals was grueling and featured lots of hills and something neither Nekuda nor his runners ever saw.

Despite not knowing the course ahead of time and with unfavorable weather conditions, Nekuda said it’s not an excuse for his runner’s performances and is already looking ahead to the start of the indoor track and field season.

“They were pretty disappointed, but they’re two great kids, they have great attitudes and we took it for what it’s worth and we’re not going to dwell on the situation for too long,” Nekuda said.

Both runners are primarily middle distance runners in track, which makes competing in cross country a real stretch on the body and mental state.

While Carter will start to prepare for indoor track, Saturday’s race was the last one for Patrick. Patrick is out of eligibility for the track season and Nekuda said it was a true pleasure to coach him and will sincerely miss Patrick for track.

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” Nekuda said. “He’s a team guy and cares a lot about not letting people down, that’s his No. 1 focus. It’s going to be hard losing him because he’s been one of my favorite guys I’ve ever coached.”

With cross country over, Nekuda and Carter are looking forward to the track season and have high expectations. Last season, Carter won a national championship in the 1,000-meter run and finished with three All-American titles as a freshman. The bar has been set and both Nekuda and Carter expect to exceed expectations and have a repeat of last season.

“For him it’s to do great things and I’m going to put those expectations on him,” Nekuda said. “We expect to do big things with him and the rest of our (track) guys who didn’t get to come here.”

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