Creal brings enthusiasm to Blue Hawks track and field in first season as coach

Chris Creal thinks track and field is almost comparable to a circus, and if that's the case, he's now the ring leader.The first-year Dickinson State head men's and women's track and field coach will begin his tenure when the Blue Hawks open the i...

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Dickinson State head track and field coach Chris Creal, center, talks with his team before a practice Thursday at Weinbergen Gym. This will be Creal’s first season with the team. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

Chris Creal thinks track and field is almost comparable to a circus, and if that’s the case, he’s now the ring leader.
The first-year Dickinson State head men’s and women’s track and field coach will begin his tenure when the Blue Hawks open the indoor season at the Myrle Hanson Open at 3 p.m. today in Spearfish, S.D., hosted by Black Hills State.
And for Creal, it’s been a little hectic up to this point.
“It’s like a three-ring circus,” he said. “You’ve just got a lot of things going on, so you just have to keep your head on a swivel and make sure things are going well.”
Creal was an assistant track and field coach at Iowa Western Community College before taking the DSU job. Creal was a track athlete for Dana College (Neb.) where he ran in the 1,600-meter relay and half-marathon, among others. He also coached at Midland University (Neb.) as a student assistant and at Dakota Wesleyan University (S.D.) as a graduate assistant before joining IWCC. He worked mostly with mid-distance runners throughout his career, though he has been working with sprints and hurdles for how his staff is made up now.
Creal steps in one year after the DSU men won the North Star Athletic Association outdoor and indoor championships and the women took the NSAA outdoor championship - their first in 34 years - and were runner-up in the conference for indoor.
Last season, Breyan Miller (indoor 200 meters), Jose Chorro (outdoor 110-meter hurdles) and Eddie Meneses (marathon) were named NAIA All-America athletes.
In other words, Creal has some expectations to live up to after Jace Schillinger - who was the men’s and women’s outdoor NSAA coach of the year - ended his interim tenure.
Though he has looked to Schillinger and other DSU coaches for advice, Creal is looking to make his own mark on the program.
“At the same time, I’ve been looking at things in the past and looking at what makes kids satisfied. It’s checks and balances,” Creal said. “I want this to be a successful program the way it has been. I don’t think you can culture shock kids when you come in. … When I first went there, it’s been looking at what works in the past and bringing my own things to make sure we succeed.”
Many of DSU’s athletes went to the national meet a season ago, including sophomore hurdler Abby Honeyman. But with the energy that Creal brings, she said there isn’t reason to believe that success can’t be met again.
“It’s been going really well,” Honeyman said. “He brings a whole new level of enthusiasm to the team. He puts in so much time for us. I know he would do anything for us, so we all respect him.”
Adjusting to a new coach isn’t easy, but DSU’s group of seniors have had to deal with four new coaches in their careers.
Senior long jumper and triple jumper Josh Reed feels that Creal was a great fit for the team, as he has shown that he’s willing to motivate athletes and push the program.
“With the new coach, it’s never been better,” Reed said. “He’s awesome because he’s the perfect age, I think. He kind of relates to us as athletes and students because it’s not too long ago that he’s been an athlete. … He’s very professional. When it comes to track, he’s right down to business.”

Practices have been encouraging, Honeyman said, because she’s seen freshmen and other youngsters coming into their own and becoming good athletes.
“What I’ve kind of learned from this is that the goal is May,” Honeyman said. “Everyone works hard for May. This meet (today), we might not get our (personal records), but we would want them in May.”
Reed said today will provide a good chance for the team to get acclimated back into a full pace.
“It’s kind of our second home I guess,” Reed said. “It’s a nice track and nice facility. It will be a really quick and fast meet. It’s nice to get the first-meet jitters out of the way. This first meet is going to be really easy. It’s a nice track so it will be nice to run.”
Honeyman added: “It takes a lot of the nerves off. I feel a lot more confident than I did last year at this time. It’s nice to have a year under the belt.”
In practice routines, Creal didn’t want the teams to be stuck in a routine from regiments past - he wanted to modify the routines to maximize potential.
“I really kind of preach about putting the time in and committing to what we do and taking care of our responsibilities,” Creal said. “The only way we’re going to be successful is if we’re a team. This team is capable of coming back from last year and following it up.”
And considering the improvement he’s seen from Day 1, Creal can see that happening.
“There’s been days in practice when there’s something that’s caught my eye. We’re seeing progress,” Creal said. “One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s a really hard working group. I don’t think I’ve heard any of them complain about anything. They just roll with the punches and go every day. 
“That’s something that most coaches beg for. I can’t ask much more from them. That speaks for itself. Going into the first meet, I’m excited. I’ve seen kids train, but going into competition it’s going to be exciting to see what they can do.”

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