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Blue Hawks keep focus on big picture

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson State junior Nathan Magstadt, a Dickinson High School graduate, runs the 110-meter hurdles in the DSU Open on March 31, 2011 at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Though many coaches don't put too much stock into the indoor season, it has sure worked wonders for the Dickinson State men's and women's track and field teams.

The Blue Hawks opened their outdoors season with 13 wins at the Yellow Jacket Open on March 28 in Spearfish, S.D.

"I think the indoor season was a big help to us," DSU head coach Pete Stanton said. "We had a very successful indoor year, even though the outdoor season is our emphasis."

Despite the early success, both coaches and athletes alike know it's just one step toward their ultimate goal -- the NAIA National Championships beginning on May 23.

"We have big goals in the future," said Nathan Magstadt, a DSU junior and Dickinson High School graduate. "If you focus too much on the outcome and not on the process to get there, you can end up falling short of that goal. It's just a matter of focusing every day."

One of those runners, who has already qualified for his top two events, is Magstadt. The junior hurdler has won and qualified for the 110- and 400-meter hurdles. Magstadt won the 110 in 14.51 seconds and the 400 in 53.07 seconds.

Though he's qualified in each of those events for the NAIA National Championships, he believes there always room for improvement.

"It's definitely a blessing," Magstadt said with a laugh. "I don't take any of that for granted. My mentality hasn't changed at all. I want to do really well and get that national championship in one or both of them this year.

"It was awesome to qualify, but I feel like I have a lot more to offer. I'm just going to keep working to get those times even lower."

DSU's brightest spot on the men's and women's side is the strength of its youth. Out of the 13 wins at the Yellow Jacket Open, 10 were from juniors or younger.

"The start of the outdoor season went really well for us," Magstadt said. "I think the amount of guys that had success during the indoor season was kind of an eye opener to all of us. We have a potential to do some pretty awesome things in the outdoor season. I think that showed itself on (March 28)."

Stanton said despite DSU's youth, many of the athletes have veteran experience. The number of total seniors on the men's and women's side is eight.

"We are very young," Stanton said. "We are a very heavy junior and sophomore group, especially our juniors, but we have a lot of experience. A lot of those juniors have already been successful at the national level."

Dante Carter, for example, is a freshman from Las Vegas, but he's already won a NAIA indoor championship and the 800 run (1:55.04) at the Yellow Jacket Open.

Fredrick Agbaje, a sophomore sprinter from Nigeria, ran with DSU last season, but he was forced to run unattached because he wasn't cleared to participate in the NAIA. He qualified for the national meet in the 200 (21.35) and came within one and half seconds to qualifying in the 400 (49.33) at the Yellow Jacket Open. Agbaje ran times in the 100 and 200 dashes last year that would have qualified him for the national meet.

On the women's side, Stormie Sickler, a Dickinson High School graduate, hadn't planned on running collegiately until the spring of her freshman year. The sophomore's hard work is shown already after winning the 800 (2:19.44) on March 28.

"I broke 2:20, which is like a milestone for 800 runners, so that was exciting," Sickler said. "It's exciting to see what the future holds."

The Blue Hawks also got wins from senior Shelby Snare in the 400 (1:00.06), junior Hailey Schaper, a graduate of Killdeer High School, in the high jump at 5-feet, 5-inches and senior Kim Schulz in the javelin (129-9).

Though the numbers on the men's numbers far exceed the number on the women's side, Sickler said both groups are working toward a common goal -- winning.

"It's was a good opening outdoor season for all of us," Sickler said. "Thirteen wins is a lot, for one team, but especially four on the women's side when the team consists of 12."

The Blue Hawks continue their season hosting the Dickinson State University Blue Hawk Open at 2:30 p.m. today at the Biesiot Activities Center.

"We talk about each week about competing," Stanton said. "We talk about each meet, that you might have a personal best and not improve your time, but the importance of being competitors. We are building up to competing in May. We talk about doing the little things in the meets and those people are going to be successful."