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DSU savoring high-caliber meet

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson State freshman Dante Carter, left, junior Dustin Sandbak, front, and junior Denis Patrick, back, compete in the 800 meter run on April 5 at the Biesiot Activities Center.

After the Sioux City Relays in Sioux City, Iowa, were cancelled, the Dickinson State men's and women's track and field teams were looking to compete at a top-of-the-line meet.

The Blue Hawks found the perfect fit.

DSU is traveling 551 miles south to the Jack Christiansen Invite today in Fort Collins, Colo. The meet features the same type of atmosphere as the Sioux City Relays with NCAA Division I and Division II, and NAIA teams competing.

"It gives our athletes a different venue and a different group of athletes -- at a high level -- to compete against," DSU head coach Pete Stanton.

The Blue Hawks are itching to continue their strong outdoor season, which has resulted in at least one athlete at each meet qualifying NAIA National Championship meet. Stanton said the team is going to relish the opportunity of facing quality competitors.

"Our athletes are really looking forward to it," he said. "You are looking at a meet that's going to have Colorado, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming. It's going to be their very best athletes. It's definitely going to be a great experience for our athletes. Hopefully, we can rise to the challenge and perform."

But for one DSU runner -- Dante Carter -- it's more than just another meet.

It's an opportunity for the freshman from Las Vegas to excel in his young career.

"For me, it's a personal vendetta, because the school we're going to is one that I applied to when I was a senior in high school," Carter said with a smile. "I'm looking to beat on some of their guys. The great thing about track and field is that is all comes down to a time. It doesn't matter what division you compete in. It's all about how fast can you run. I'm going to run as fast as I can."

Carter has already proved to be a valuable runner for the Blue Hawks, winning a national title in the 1,000-meter run at the NAIA indoor championships.

"Coming off the indoor season -- which was really good for us -- we had a lot of expectations going into the outdoor season," Carter said. "We got snowed in for a while there, but this last meet (Blue Hawk Games) was a very positive outlook for us.

"But it's been difficult, the fact that we've had to cancel so many meets, move so much around and not being able to go to the high-caliber meets that we wanted to. It's seems like it's going to change with this warmer weather."

Carter qualified in the 800 and 1,500 during the team's last meet, the annual Blue Hawks Games which were held at Miles City, Mont., because Fisher Field and the Biesiot Activities Center were still covered in snow.

Since Carter is already a NAIA champion, he said there will always be that expectation to be No. 1.

"Being a national champion, everyone expects you to be No. 1," Carter said. "Until I'm No. 1, there's always going to be that weight on my shoulders. However, it's nice to qualify, because there will be less stress at the end of the season."

The Blue Hawks have 12 national championship qualifiers in the first three outdoor meets of the season. There are 10 on the men's side and two on the women's side.

The two women's qualifiers are junior Hailey Schaper, a graduate from Killdeer High School, in the high jump and senior Kim Schulz in the javelin. Both qualified at the Blue Hawk Games.

"It's going as expected," Schaper said. "It kind of got off to a slow start with meets, because of the weather. We've been working inside and staying conditioned. We are going to where we can, when we can."

For the men's side, junior Nathan Magstadt, a Dickinson High School graduate, is qualified in the 110 and 400 hurdles. He is also a member of the 400 relay team. He has the second-fastest NAIA qualifying time in the 400 hurdles at 52.61 seconds. The other three members of the 400 relay team are junior Fredrick Agbaje, freshman Breyan Miller and junior Jon Dinius. The Blue Hawks' 400 relay team is currently tied with the fastest NAIA qualifying team with Wayland Baptist (Texas) at 40.94.

Junior Brady Sundheim has the second-best NAIA qualifying leap in the long jump at 48 feet, 11 3/4 inches. Miller is in the 100 and 200, while Agbaje is qualified in the 200. Andrew Knebel qualified in the high jump at 6-9 during the Blue Hawk Games.

Stanton has no complaints about the season thus far. His main message to his athletes for each meet is to go out and compete to their full potential. So far, the men and women have both executed the message.

"I'm very pleased with the way we've performed in our meets," Stanton said. "I think, top to bottom our whole team has done a good job of staying focused and did what we needed to do in the meets."