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Mike Nekuda
Mike Nekuda

Nekuda hired to helm DSU cross country program

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Blue Hawks Dickinson, 58602

Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

By Dustin Monke

Mike Nekuda doesn't have much time to prepare for his new job, but he is getting a lot of help.

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Dickinson State announced Tuesday that Nekuda has been hired as the school's new head cross country coach.

Nekuda replaces Thadd O'Donnell, who was head coach of the team for seven seasons and will remain a part of the program as an assistant coach.

"I'm really, really, really excited," Nekuda said. "I can't wait to get up there and get started."

Though he is only 26, Nekuda began building a strong resume before being hired by DSU.

He was most recently the head cross country coach and head coach of women's track and field at Dakota State.

He was an assistant at Dakota State in both sports in 2008-09 and spent the 2009-10 season in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he led the Cheyenne East girls track and field team to a state indoor championship.

During his time at Dakota State, his track and cross country teams set seven school records and won the Dakota Athletic Conference men's cross country title in 2009, ending a six-year championship run by his alma mater, Black Hills State.

"Everybody we talked to said this guy is top of the line with his work ethic," DSU athletic director Tim Daniel said.

A native of Hot Springs, S.D., Nekuda graduated from BHSU and also holds a master's degree from in human performance and physical education from Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo.

"He's coached cross country within the DAC, so all those things by being familiar with the conference as an athlete and a coach and growing up in this part of the country was a big thing for us," Daniel said.

In addition to his duties as cross country coach, Nekuda will also be the track and field team's distance coach and take on a role in DSU's sports information department.

He replaces distance coach Dan Chelstrom, who resigned from the university shortly after the 2010-11 season ended.

"Obviously, coach (Pete) Stanton has taken the track and field program to new heights. Everybody up there knows that," Nekuda said. "I'm looking to help him out on the distance side, and more than anything create a little stability on the distance side."

Stepping down as head cross country coach allows O'Donnell to focus more on his duties as head wrestling coach. There is a six-week overlap in the two seasons, which often caused O'Donnell to try and balance coaching two sports at the same time.

O'Donnell said the most positive aspect of Nekuda's hiring is that athletes in both cross country and wrestling will have more of an opportunity for one-on-one coaching time.

"You couldn't do a great job in one area, because you were trying to balance two things," O'Donnell said. "It worked, but it just wasn't ideal."

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