Nekuda excited about DSU cross country team entering 2nd seasonOnce Mike Neduka gets talking about the Dickinson State cross country team, it’s hard for him to stop. The second-year head coach has good reasons to be fired up.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Once Mike Neduka gets talking about the Dickinson State cross country team, it’s hard for him to stop.
The second-year head coach has good reasons to be fired up.
After taking over the team last season without much chance to recruit or train them, he has compiled a team he feels can step into the Frontier Conference and be competitive.
“It’s not only about the new kids coming in, but the kids we had last year,” Nekuda said. “(They) bought into what I coached and made huge strides. They’re going to be a lot better as well. They’re going to make big strides and be part of this team.”
While the Blue Hawks don’t open their season until Sept. 14 the Wiley Wilson Memorial Meet in Minot, they will hold team time trials at 8 p.m. Thursday under the lights at the Badlands Activities Center.
The time trials, which are open to the public, will help Nekuda formulate a game plan for the season.
“It’ll help me train them. I still have two weeks until the first meet,” he said. “Unless I know how fast somebody is, it’s hard to go in and scientifically pick out a pace and break down paces if I don’t know how fast somebody is.”
Nekuda said he relied on juniors Dustin Sandbak, a Phoenix native in his third season at DSU, and Brittany Young to help him build up the program.
“It’s nice just to have a whole team here,” Sandbak said. “My freshman year, we barely had enough to fill the whole team. Now we have a whole lot of extra guys. It’s been easier to run for everyone involved when you have more guys running with you. It makes it more enjoyable too when everyone is a unit. We’re pushing each other and seeing what we can do.”
Junior Denis Patrick and Abdi Ismail, who transferred from junior colleges in the Phoenix area, are set to be the top men’s runners. Freshman Nick Priego finished eighth at the state meet in Nevada’s highest high school class last season.
“The men’s side, we definitely have a new group of guys coming in that will make an immediate impact, along with the development of the kids we had last year on the men’s side,” Nekuda said.
The women’s team has far more question marks then the men.
Young finished 10th at the Frontier Conference meet last season, which would have put her in line to be an all-conference performer had DSU been a part of the league.
Sophomore Stormie Sickler, a Dickinson High School graduate, is the only other returner from last season on the women’s side.
“I can see everyone is confident in his training, which I was last year coming in,” Young said.
Shelby Snare, a sprinter on the track, has joined the cross country team. Junior Margaret Martinez transferred from Valley City State. Breezy Bolden is a freshman and Valarie Segay is a junior.
“Here’s the deal. Shelby, Breezy, they’re not true cross country runners. But their attitudes are remarkable,” Nekuda said. “I would rather coach someone that might not have all the ingredients to be an amazing distance runner, but is a good runner and has a great, positive attitude. It’s fun. They’re a blast to coach.”
O’Donnell takes over DSU golf team
Thadd O’Donnell isn’t trying to coach every sport at DSU.
Though it may seem like it.
O’Donnell will enter his 18th season as head wrestling coach in the winter. He has been an assistant football coach and the head cross country coach.
He is adding head golf coach to his resume this season.
“That’s got to be a record some place,” O’Donnell said with a laugh.
O’Donnell inherits the team from Cory Fehringer, who left DSU over the summer to take the head men’s basketball and head volleyball coaching jobs for Dakota College at Bottineau.
O’Donnell inherits a team that returns several solid golfers from the 2011-12 season, including four returners on the women’s team and six returners on the men’s side.
“These guys have golfed their whole life,” O’Donnell said. “That part was pretty easy. It’s basically trying to adjust.”
DSU opens the fall portion of its season at 10 a.m. today during the Jimmie Open at the Jamestown Country Club.
Seniors Brian Quintus and Zorast Gustavsp, juniors Chandler Pender and Matt Altner, sophomores Kevin Hill and Tristen Long all return on the men’s side. Dickinson High School graduate Luke Hanel joins the team as a freshman, as does Nathan Easton of Laramie, Wyo.
Senior Caitlin Hurlock, junior Paige Kamminga and sophomores Stef Bohrer and Laura Duppong return for the Blue Hawk women. Sophomore Danielle O’Donnell, Thadd O’Donnell’s daughter, rounds out the team.
DSU doesn’t play in a tournament against Frontier Conference teams until the spring season, which doesn’t have a finalized schedule yet. The Blue Hawks are hoping to have a home meet in April, weather permitting.
The conference tournament is scheduled to be played on a neutral course in Missoula, Mont.
“In the fall, you can get prepared and you can play. You get things ready to roll,” Thadd O’Donnell said. “Obviously the spring in this country is very questionable. It’s always good golf in the fall. The spring is when you separate.”