Maturity should help Hawks
DICKINSON - Last season, the Dickinson State men's track and field team was full of wide-eyed freshmen and steady sophomores.
But after the Blue Hawks men's track and field team took a surprising third place at the NAIA indoor national championships last March and a second-place finish at the outdoor nationals in May, coach Pete Stanton is convinced the still young team is coming along just fine.
"Last year, all year long, I was worried about us and our maturity level. I thought we really handled it well," Stanton said. "We did get a year under our belt that way and I expect our men to do great things this year."
The Blue Hawks return three national champions - two from outdoor, one from indoor - and open their indoor season tonight at the Chadron State Twilight meet.
Sophomore hurdler and sprinter Allan Ayala, for one, is confident DSU can make improvements this season.
"Last season, it was my first-ever indoor season," Ayala said. "... Experience counts a lot."
Ayala, a Guatemala native, was second in the 400-meter hurdles at the NAIA outdoor nationals, but will complete primarily in sprint events during the indoor season.
The Blue Hawks' only national champion from the indoor season is junior Ramon Miller, who set a new NAIA national indoor record in the 400 meters with his title run of 46.956 seconds.
Miller, a Nassau, Bahamas, native, finished third at the outdoor championships.
Stanton looks to veterans such as Miller, Ayala, junior Dominic Goodman and senior Sergio Campos Jimenez to be team leaders as the season gets under way.
"We have a lot of others back, but that's certainly a good place to start," Stanton said.
Goodman was second in the triple jump at indoors, but leaped more than 50 feet to win the outdoor national title in the event a little more than two months later.
Jimenez took third in the 1,000 indoor and is one of three members returning from a national-qualifying 3,200 relay team.
On the women's side, sophomore Kelsey Aide is coming off an outdoor national title in the pole vault. However, she is out to prove she can do the same indoors.
Aide finished eighth at the indoor national championships after she cleared 10 feet, 11¾ inches. Then a freshman, she turned around and won the outdoor national title.
"The indoor is kind of like revenge after last year and how horrible I did," Aide said. "I just want to go back and do as best I can - just go back and redo it in a way. I just expected more going into the indoor."
However, as always, Stanton is hoping his team uses the indoor season as a way to prepare for the outdoor season.
The DSU men have placed in the top two at the national outdoor championships the past five years and won national titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
"We look at the whole season in which we're aiming to have a good indoor conference and a good indoor nationals, but we're aiming point is toward the end of the year," Stanton said. "So, it's a balancing act of making sure we're not doing too much right now and not getting after it too much."