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Running strong

Cross country coach Thadd O'Donnell is not putting too much stock into his men's team's national ranking. Not yet. Coming into the season, the Blue Hawks are ranked No. 21 in the NAIA and fourth in Region III. "That preseason ranking, it's like a...

Cross country coach Thadd O'Donnell is not putting too much stock into his men's team's national ranking. Not yet.

Coming into the season, the Blue Hawks are ranked No. 21 in the NAIA and fourth in Region III.

"That preseason ranking, it's like any type of subjective ranking," O'Donnell said. "It's all going off last year and going off whose returning. It really doesn't say how much they've been working and that type of thing."

The Blue Hawks' offseason paid off on Thursday. DSU opened their season at the Minot State Invitational.

"We're headed in the right direction, we're not in great shape yet," O'Donnell said. "... We want to run our best race in the first week of November."

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O'Donnell rightfully believes the Blue Hawks have a group with the caliber to return at the NAIA Championships on Nov. 17 in Kenosha, Wis., too.

Seniors John Kungu, Sergio Jimenez Shane Grever return, as do juniors Dan Molnar and Porfirio Parra. Molnar, a Hungary native, ran the marathon for DSU at the NAIA track and field championships in May while Parra did well in several distance events.

"That's going to make a big difference, when we have someone like Dan here," Jimenez said.

Kungu finished fourth in the regional meet and 36th at nationals last season.

"There's another switch for John when they take the sweats off and the uniform comes on," O'Donnell said. "That's the kind of drive we want, that competitive edge."

However, the lynch pin to the Blue Hawks' success this season could be their transfers.

Senior Luke Keny, a Kenya native, finished 11th at the Region V championship last season while running for Graceland (Iowa) University.

Robert Hernandez and Frank Ruiz transferred from Los Angeles Trade Tech and were both members of the 2005 California junior college champions.

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Junior Bryant Harvey and sophomores Eli Turnbough and Nathan Brown all bring experience to the table.

"We definitely like our returners," O'Donnell said. "I think we bring back a good core of guys who will do a good job for us."

Women search for leadership

While the DSU men return a batch of talent, the women are searching for a leader after losing Kristal Wolf, their only national qualifier, to graduation.

However, the return of sophomore Rayel McPeters and addition of junior Rose Jepkirui could mean success for the Blue Hawks.

"I think we have a good core of girls in there who are working real hard and have a good chemistry," O'Donnell said.

Jepkirui holds DSU records in the 5K (18 minutes, 1 second) and the 10 K (39:37.04) and was part of a 3,200-meter relay team who set a DSU record last spring. Jepkirui set the 5K record at NAIA indoors.

Like the men, the DSU women are hope transfers figure into the team's equation.

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Nancy Anel and Susan Torres are both transfers from L.A. Trade Tech. Anel finished 31st at the California JuCo championships last year.

"We had a lot of new girls come in this year," McPeters said. "We're doing pretty good, practice is going good so far. It always takes a long time to get in shape right now."

"I think we have a good core of girls in there who are working real hard and have a good chemistry," O'Donnell said.

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