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DSU relay team prepares to push

The men's 1,600 relay team at Dickinson State has been waiting for someone to push them all season. The quartet of Allan Ayala, John Ingraham, Ramon Miller and Sean Pickstock will no doubt see the competition they've been waiting for Saturday whe...

The men's 1,600 relay team at Dickinson State has been waiting for someone to push them all season.

The quartet of Allan Ayala, John Ingraham, Ramon Miller and Sean Pickstock will no doubt see the competition they've been waiting for Saturday when their event closes out the 2008 NAIA national outdoor track and field championships.

"We like to compete," Miller said. "If we're out in front, sometimes you tend to cruise and relax and don't go after it. At nationals, we should overcome our cruising and have to work hard and push hard."

That's what happened at the indoor national meet.

The Blue Hawks came in with a time of 3:18.07 and cruised past second-place Doane College by a shade less than three seconds to win a national title in 3:10.76.

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"We don't have any fear that somebody's going to let us down in a relay," Ayala said. "We want teams to run with us so we improve."

During the outdoor season, no team came within six seconds of the speedy quartet. However, their fastest time is just 3:16.11, only the ninth-best mark in the NAIA heading into nationals.

However, DSU coach Pete Stanton doesn't doubt that the number will drop this weekend.

Three members of the team have been here before.

Ayala, Miller and Pickstock were part of last year's national runner-up that set a school record at 3:09.18. Yet, the time was nearly two seconds shy of beating St. Gregory's in the national championship race.

"They are very conscientious about what they're going to do and they're workers," Stanton said.

There's no doubt about that.

Each member of the team will compete in at least one more event at nationals.

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Miller and Ayala are threats to win national titles in their open events.

Miller won the 400 indoor last winter and currently has the top time in the nation at 46.33. Ayala took third in the outdoor 400 hurdles last spring but holds to the NAIA's top time at 51.91 heading into the weekend.

Ingraham, meanwhile, is part of the 400 relay team with Miller, Michael Sands and Jermaine Christie and will the 200 open, where he's less than 0.7 seconds off the nation's top time.

Pickstock, the Dakota Athletic Conference pentathlon champion, joins Miller in the 400.

"It'll be nice to run without him for once, so I can get a feel how to run by myself," Pickstock said.

According to Stanton, the group looks to Miller for leadership.

"Everything about him is something the rest of them can follow," Stanton said. "He sets the bar and the rest of them are with him as well."

That doesn't make the junior a lone wolf though.

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Each sprinter says friendship off the track has helped everything from their timing to baton handoffs to training and workouts.

Ingraham said he had completely different experiences with his relay teams at Lindenwood (Mo.) University his freshman and sophomore seasons.

"Here, we're like a family," Ingraham said. "We tend to click on things much easier."

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