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DSU names Nekuda head track and field coach

Before Friday, there has been three head coaching changes this season at Dickinson State.

On Friday, it was announced there is a fourth.

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Cross Country head coach Mike Nekuda has been officially hired as the men’s and women’s track and field head coach after Pete Stanton stepped down to take over as the head football coach.

Stanton coached the Blue Hawks to three straight NAIA men’s outdoor national championships (2004, 2005, 2006), four runner-up titles and helped produce four Olympians.

Needless to say, Nekuda has a tall order to live up to. Despite the nerves of taking the reins of the prestigious program, Nekuda is happy to know Stanton will be just a few doors down if he needs anything.

“Coach Stanton is one of the nicest, laid back guys and if I need anything, even if was two years from now, he’d be giving me advice,” Nekuda said. “I’m not the type of person who has too much pride to go and ask coach Stanton his opinion on something.”

Nekuda has been the head coach of the cross country team for the past three seasons as well as coached the middle and long distance runners for the men’s and women’s track and field teams. He directly coached 11 All-Americans as well as a national champion in sophomore Dante Carter.

Last year, the men’s track program finished in fifth place in the nation and Nekuda said although some things will eventually change, he wants to keep what Stanton has implemented since it has been working all these years.

“I’m not going to go out there and change stuff … if I wanted to I would,” he said. “I believe in what I can do but honestly what coach Stanton has been doing is working so we’re not going to reinvent the wheel and just keep doing things.”

While the athletes were disappointed to see Stanton leave, they are also very excited to have Nekuda step in and take his place. His achievements with the cross country team and the distance runners are a comforting fact that the runners are in good hands under Nekuda.

“I’m really excited, coach Nekuda knows his stuff and he’s a good coach,” senior Nathan Magstadt said. “His success with the cross (country) team and the distance program in just the two years that he’s been here is very evident. So for this year, it’s awesome to have him as the coach but also for the years ahead he’s going to be great too.”

Sophomore Stormie Sickler added: “Sometimes bringing in a new face for a head coach position … they’ll have different coaching methods that you’re not quite used to and the transition is hard on the athlete. But it’s good he’s here and knows how the system works and has a science behind running. I know all the athletes believe in that.”

Most of the middle and long distance runners on the track teams also run cross country in the fall because Nekuda’s philosophies and training help them become faster for the track season. Nekuda said he will remain the head cross country coach and Sickler, one of his cross country and track runners, is excited to have him year round as her coach.

“Taking on the head track and field coach position kind of made me worried that he would not have as much time for the cross country group,” she said. “I’m glad he’s still going to work with us and stay.”

With the indoor track and field season right around the corner, Nekuda has his goals in order and wants his team to be more concerned with process goals for now instead of the final outcome goal of winning another national championship.

“I’m big on how do you get to that level? You get there by not missing any practice, do all your morning runs, getting all your lifting workouts in,” Nekuda said. “We want to take care of the process and the rest will take care of itself and whatever happens happens. That’s our main goal.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.