The Dickinson State cross country team was able to finish with a decent outcome Friday, with senior Lisa Townsend helping lead the women’s team become co-champions with Dakota and the for the men’s team, Hunter Flynn would help lead the team to a third place overall finish.
The women’s was motivated to clinch its fifth consecutive NSAA championship, preparing for a tight battle with Dakota State for the title. That’s exactly what they did.
As the ending of the race came into formation -- 4,000 meters to go -- Townsend trailed Trojan runner Ashley Robinson and needed to make a move late or place in second. In the final stretch Townsend had a nitrous push and battled with Robinson but in the end took home the first place finish with a time of 20:12, Robinson would place second with a time of 20:14.
Besides Townsend, the Blue Hawks had a strong showing at the late stretch, senior Jacey Wilson would place fourth with a 20:18 time. Sophomore Emily Kuhen played a critical role by placing sixth with a 20:37 time and helping the Blue Hawks tie Dakota State with athletes placing in the top 10.
“It was nuts, we had (Dakota State) on average time...we had them on head-to-head wins on the top five runners, if we hadn’t scored on (Emily Kuhen) they were going to beat us. So, it was one of those situations where it came right down to the wire,” head coach Shayne Wittkopp said.
Despite tying and being co-champions with the Trojans with 41 points overall, after what felt like a lengthy delay, the NSAA announced that both DSU and Dakota State will both be going to nationals. Along with the shared victory, Kupp was just as pleased with the back-end runners as he was with the front-runners.
“(We) can’t under appreciate our four runner, five runner and six runner. Baylie Smith, Sarah Griffis and Emily Kuehn had great days for us...they are what makes a good team, is the back of your lineup really coming through when you need them. I’m just really proud of those girls,” Kupp said.
As for the men, Trojan athletes Braden Curnow and Max Cruse took claimed first and second place for the second consecutive year for Dakota State. Curnow finished with a time of 25:18 and Cruse finished with 25:59. However, Flynn was able to qualify for nationals by placing sixth with a time of 26:54, helping lead the team to the third spot overall with a score of 82, trailing behind Viterbo in second with 53 and Dakota State with 29.
“Obviously Hunter Flynn earning himself a bid to nationals was big, he knew it was going to be a challenge...We knew coming in that Dakota State was going to be (tough) today, but that wasn’t going to stop us from going out there and competing. What we didn’t know was how well Veterbo was going to run,” Kupp said. “I was proud of the (player’s) effort, one of our better meets of the season. But we got to respect Dakota State for what they are, they’re a ranked team and they deserve to be ranked...and got to respect Viterbo as well, they just came out today and had a fantastic race and now we got to match them, figure out a way.”
The NAIA National Championship will take place in Vancouver, Washington, on Nov. 22.