Blue Hawks zone in to surpass three-year title holders Dakota State
DICKINSON — Dickinson State (DSU) men's track and field team have been just behind the gun for a North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) conference title, coming second to Dakota State University (DaSU) in both the 2021-22 outdoor and 2022-23 indoor seasons. The savory scent of gold medal greatness has been the best motivator for the bunch, with the coaching staff working diligently towards closing the gap between them and the Spartans in the intervening years.
The first mountain to climb will unfortunately be one made of snow, as they work to balance their schedule and the elements to keep athletes competitive in the early weeks of the season as Dickinson broke the record snowfall with 92.5 inches this winter — and no signs spring relief in sight.
For head coach Shayne Wittkopp, a structured plan has to have flexibility to it — And as a member of the Blue Hawks 2004 - 2006 Outdoor National Championship teams, Wittkopp knows a thing or two about climbing the summit.
“For me, the team isn't just the team, it is all the assistant coaches and athletic training staff too,” Wittkopp said. “We want to focus on the process … Healthy athletes usually compete the best in May, so keeping the athletes' health in mind is probably the most important thing.”
The Blue Hawks have a strong and experienced group of upperclassmen, with all-conference decorations from the year before and they also welcome a young freshman, in Quentin Lewis, that could add onto their pace.
Martin Farver will be standouts for DSU, earning last year's Most Valuable Track Performer at the 2022 outdoor conference meet. Farver also shined during the indoor meet this year, finishing first in the 200-meter dash, with a time of 21.72, breaking a conference record.
Young newcomer Lewis took silver in the same event and would win the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.95. Lewis was a Dickinson High School athlete, who had a top five finish at state his senior year in the 100-meter (5th) and 200-meter (2nd).
Junior Galen Alen Brantley III will be another favorite, but in the field. Not only did he take gold in shot put at the indoor season, with a throw of 16.14, he also gained All-American ranking in shot put, earning bronze with a throw of 16.70 meters at the NAIA indoor meet.
The depth to DasU’s roster and talent are large contributors to them collecting the outdoor conference meet title three years running. In the indoor season conference meet, the Spartans would sweep the Pentathlon, giving them comfortability over the other events. Wittkopp is determined to keep freebies off the table for their competitors, carefully dissecting each event and those contesting.
“We historically did really well in the combined event and we are getting kids ready right now, so they can be competitive there,” Wittkopp said. “The main goal for the men is figuring out how to close that gap and make us competitive … Dakota State has a really big roster, which gives them a lot of flexibility. We got the next biggest roster, so it's not that we don't have a big roster, but you talk about an opponent that presents a challenge for us, it's Dakota State.”
Dickinson State was slated to compete this past weekend at the Yellow Jacket Opener, but was cancelled due to weather.