DSU Notebook: Distance runners add new dimension to men's track teamFor the past decade, the Dickinson State men’s track and field team has been regarded as one of consistently best programs in the NAIA.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
For the past decade, the Dickinson State men’s track and field team has been regarded as one of consistently best programs in the NAIA.
Yet despite winning three consecutive outdoor national championships and five runner-up finishes, in that entire time the Blue Hawks always seemed to be missing one facet: a dominating presence in distance events.
That is changing.
“My number one goal coming in here was to help coach Stanton compete at the highest level, which is the national meet,” said Mike Nekuda, DSU’s head cross country coach and the track team’s distance coach. “I wanted to do my part and put points somewhere on the board to help the team.”
The fruits of Nekuda’s labor are beginning to ripen.
It began Saturday at the Cobber Duals in Moorhead, Minn., when freshman Dante Carter ran the NAIA’s best indoor 1,000-meter time of the winter in 2 minutes, 27.69 seconds while DSU picked up wins in the mile, 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
Nekuda believes distance runners have carried over well from the cross country season. After about a week off, Carter said the training for track season officially began.
“It takes a lot of faith — it’s cold here — and having to run,” said Carter, who is from Las Vegas. “You go from cross season and then we took a week break and then came right back in and started up on the treads indoors, every single day. Whether it’s running inside, outside, lifting, doing abs, we’re always doing something to get us to what happened this last weekend.”
Junior Denis Patrick won the mile in 4:24.22 with junior Dustin Sandbak finishing runner-up just .77 behind him. Freshman Jeffrey Segovia won the 3,000 in 9:22.56 and Eddie Meneses improved his personal-best time in the 5K by 70 seconds with a winning time of 15:38.74.
A week earlier at DSU’s first meet, the Dave Little Invitational in Spearfish, S.D., Carter ran a national-qualifying time of 4:15.05 in the 1,000. The time ranks third in the NAIA.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Nekuda said. “These guys are putting in the work. They’re running in the mornings when it’s cold and dark outside. You know what I mean? It’s not, ‘Oh, we’re just magically running fast.’ We’re putting in the work to do it. It’s cool to see the success already. It’s not just Dante, it’s everybody running well right now.”
If the distance runners keep improving, Nekuda believes they could make a serious impact at not only the NAIA outdoor national championships in May, but even at the indoor championships the first weekend of March.
“I have no doubt in my mind that these guys, right now where they’re at, are just scratching the surface,” Nekuda said.
Senior center Cabello playing ideal role
Jenna Cabello has always been a player who knew her role on the DSU women’s basketball team.
The 6-foot-2 senior backup center from Murrieta, Calif., has done everything head coach Caleb Harrison has asked of her this season, from crashing the boards, to providing a physical presence in the paint and helping bring along sophomore Jess Bygate.
“I definitely need to go out there and get those boards and with the time I have, make the most of it,” Cabello said. “It may be my last time for that game, or I might be subbed out. I have to make the most of the minutes I have in there.”
Cabello is playing just 13 minutes a game, but is averaging career highs of 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
“We’ve asked her to be an enforcer and she does an excellent job of that, you can see it in her rebounding numbers,” Harrison said. “It’s more than just her rebounding numbers though. She’s a physical presence, teams have to shoot over her. She changes shots, she likes bumping the cutters and all those things that put us in positions where we’ve had to win this year.”
Cabello has also done quite a bit of work in the background, guiding Bygate, DSU’s 6-2 starting center from New Zealand.
Bygate, one of the building blocks for DSU, has improved steadily as the season has worn on. Harrison says Cabello deserves part of the credit for that.
“In practice, I like working together with her because she makes me better and I make her better,” Cabello said. “We push each other. We bump each other. We make sure we’re going the hardest that we can. I love working with her. We love working with each other because we’re both strong.”
After giving up 40 to Bock, Hawks face Frontier’s best scorer
Last Saturday, the DSU men’s basketball team allowed Montana Tech junior Bryan Bock to score 40 points.
On Thursday, the Blue Hawks will face the most prolific scorer in the Frontier Conference and plan to make sure he doesn’t do the same thing to them.
DSU travels to face the University of Great Falls (Mont.) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. With that, they get to face 6-2 junior guard Marcel Towns, who averages a league-leading 19.4 points per game and adds 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.4 assists a night.
“They’re in every game because this kid can go create,” DSU head coach Ty Orton said. “He can make a shot.”
So how does DSU make sure that Towns doesn’t give them déjà vu?
“I think the whole thing is we’ve got to make sure, if he does go off — and he’s capable of putting up 30 at any time — that nobody else goes off for 20 and we don’t give up easy layups,” Orton said. “That’s something that happened against Tech the other night.”