DSU looks for another top 5 finish
In 2013, the Dickinson State men’s track and field team finished fifth in the nation with a roster built on a wealth of juniors.
The Blue Hawks have a tall order to repeat, if not surpass, but with the healthy mix of accomplished returners and hardworking newcomers, the odds are in their favor.
“Everyone is actually putting in more work,” junior Breyan Miller said. “Last year, I felt like there was some people who put in a lot of work and some others were lollygagging. This year, since we got fifth at nationals, people actually say we can get higher if we do what we’re supposed to do. Everyone is on the game plan this year.”
This is the inaugural season for head coach Mike Nekuda. Nekuda, the men’s and women’s cross country head coach, took over the team after former head coach Pete Stanton left to become the head football coach.
Last season was one to remember for DSU. The men’s team placed fifth and had 11 individual NAIA all-Americans and 15 total. Fortunately for the teams, 11 all-Americans return in hopes of outdoing themselves. In the sprints, key returners will be Miller for the men and senior Marissa Stanton for the women.
Miller placed fifth in the 100 meter, third in the 200 and finished in second in the 400-meter relay with fellow teammates John Dinius, Josh Neumiller and Fred Agbaje. Miller picked up three all-American honors in 2013.
Stanton, who runs the 400, relays and occasionally the 200, said she finished about average last season and has set some personal and team goals to accomplish for the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
“For sure, to do something in the long relay,” she said. “We have a good set of girls coming in this year and just some veterans who have been here a couple years. And I’d really like to see how we’d put together a long relay. For the 400, indoors you’re kind of just building up so to get to that place you want to be for outdoor is what I’ll use indoor for.”
In the hurdles, the Blue Hawks return senior Nathan Magstadt. Last season, the Dickinson High School graduate picked up all-American honors, but was four-hundredths of a second away from clinching a national championship. The loss to Southern-New Orleans’ Sheldon Williams has been motivation for Magstadt to finish his final season on top.
“It was a photo finish and it was definitely a lot to chew on all summer long, knowing I was four-hundredths away from being a national champion,” Magstadt said. “But it’s motivating and I think it’s really helped for this year. Personally, to just say this is your last year and if you want to win a national championship, you were so close and know what almost tastes like.”
The other returning all-Americans for the men are Brady Sundheim (triple jump), Andy Knebel (high jump), Dante Carter (middle distance), Dustin Sandbak (middle distance) and Jon Dinius (sprints). For the women, Hailey Schaper (high jump) and Brittany Young (middle distance) are returning for their senior seasons.
Neither teams will have to rely solely on returners, as DSU has a plethora of newcomers.
Ashley Olson from Plentywood, Mont., joins the women and will be a big addition in several events. Nekuda described Olson as a utility athlete who can compete in anything from jumps to sprints. Garreth Kerr from Jamaica is competing in sprints and some high hurdles. He has set the bar for not just talent, but work ethic.
“He’s good, but you see his work ethic and it goes along with and it makes sense,” Nekuda said. “He’s not one of those really good guys who just sits back and doesn’t do anything. He’s good and works really hard and has impressed me big time.”
The Blue Hawks also have freshman and Bowman County High School graduate Michael Palczewski running sprints. Palczewski is an eight-time Class B state placer. Palczewski won a 400-meter title in 2012 and finished third in the event in 2013.
The work ethic has not been limited to just Kerr, Palczewski and Olson. The newcomers have been training hard in the offseason and have impressed not only Nekuda, but their teammates as well. This weekend, the returners and newcomers get their chance to prove themselves in the Dave Little Invitational Saturday in Spearfish, S.D. There will be around 10 teams competing with a majority of them NCAA Division I and II programs.
Nekuda’s training philosophy is to take each meet at a time and work little by little in order for his athletes to peak at the end of the year for nationals.
“We want to compete well and kind of show everyone what we have as a team which is I think we’re pretty good,” Magstadt said. “Just the mentality it’s a first meet. Just because its the first doesn’t mean we can take any time off. It’s our measuring point to see where we’re at compared to other athletes.”
Stanton added: “I think the girls team will really come out this week. We’ll see … we have a lot of new freshman coming in and I’m real interested to see how they do and just to see where we’ll stand and where we can improve after this meet.”