Nekuda settling in at DSUBecause of the housing crunch, it took Mike Nekuda a bit longer to move to Dickinson than he originally hoped.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Because of the housing crunch, it took Mike Nekuda a bit longer to move to Dickinson than he originally hoped.
Now that he’s here though, it’s clear that the new Dickinson State head cross country coach isn’t going anywhere.
“This is where I want to be,” Nekuda said.
Nekuda is proving that with the time and effort he is putting into his new program.
“He’s got a great work ethic,” said Chris Gill, DSU’s lone senior on the men’s team.
Nekuda, who was most recently the assistant cross country and track coach at Dakota State, said one of his only lingering questions coming into the season was how the athletes would respond to his coaching style.
“I was a little hesitant,” he said. “How are new kids going to relate to you?”
Well, it turns out the Blue Hawk upperclassmen like the direction that Nekuda is steering the program.
Gill and senior Vanessa Esquival said the team is quickly taking a shine to the 26-year-old coach who works them hard, but for a purpose.
“He knows a lot,” Esquival said. “Communication is the key with him. It seems he knows a lot about running and training. I’m glad he came here, so I can learn a lot from him.”
The Blue Hawks open their season at 3 p.m. Friday with the Valley City State Invitational.
DSU is coming off a tough season.
Its highest men’s finisher at last year’s Dakota Athletic Conference meet a 29th-place time from Edwin Chelashaw, a junior who returns this season.
The Blue Hawks finished last at the meet.
The women, however, return two of their top three runners in Esquival and junior Gladys Rotich. The helped DSU finish fourth at the DAC meet last season.
Nekuda, who ran on some of the NAIA’s top men’s teams at Black Hills State during his career, said he isn’t expecting to win a national title overnight.
He only hopes that the Blue Hawks can use this season to begin establishing habits that will lead to the construction of a winning program.
“It’s so much about gaining the trust in your athletes and having them truly believe in you,” Nekuda said. “There’s a lot of things you have to do on your own. It’s a 12-month sport.”
Nekuda replaces Thadd O’Donnell as head coach. O’Donnell is staying with the team as an assistant.
“It was a very easy transition because of him,” Nekuda said.
DSU’s cross country teams also have the honor of being the first teams at the school to compete under the Frontier Conference banner.
DSU was granted early entrance into the Frontier — all other sports join the league in the 2011-12 season — because the Frontier had only five cross country teams and six are needed for a league to automatically qualify its team champion for the NAIA national meet.
While DSU will run the same general schedule that it normally has, it will compete in the Frontier championship meet on Nov. 5 in Billings, Mont.
“It should be exciting,” Nekuda said.
Dickinson State cross country
Head coach: Mike Nekuda (first season)
Last season: Seventh in DAC
Returners: Edwin Chelashaw, Jr., (29th in DAC); Dustin Sandbak, So. (40th in DAC); Chris Gill, Sr., (42nd in DAC).
Newcomers: Jimmy Granados, Fr.; Daniel Patrick, Jr.; Robert Quintero, Jr.; Clayton Steinmetz, Fr.; Luis Meneses, Fr.
Last season: Fourth in DAC
Returners: Vanessa Esquival, Sr. (14th in DAC); Gladys Rotich, Jr. (12th in DAC); Samantha Pounds, Sr.
Newcomers: Mariela Sanchez, Sr.; Clara Escutia, Jr.; Brittany Young, So.; Rose Byrne, Fr.; Stormie Sickler, Fr.
Losses: Tina Marie Soto (13th in DAC).