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Jamestown Invite a measuring stick for Blue Hawks cross country

Dickinson State cross country head coach Ben Shroyer likes to split his season up into three categories. There's the general prep phase, the competition phase and the championship phase. The general prep -- early-season meets in Moorhead, Minn., ...

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From left to right: Amanda Wolff, Paola Silvestre and Ashly Kraenzel cool down at the Biesiot Activities Center on Thursday. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson press)

Dickinson State cross country head coach Ben Shroyer likes to split his season up into three categories.

There’s the general prep phase, the competition phase and the championship phase.

The general prep - early-season meets in Moorhead, Minn., and Minneapolis - is over. The men finished fourth out of seven in Moorhead and 33rd out of 40 at the University of Minnesota Roy Griak Cross Country Invite in Minneapolis. The women finished fifth in the former meet, and didn’t place at the latter meet because of lack of numbers.

But all that is in the rear view now.

Onto the competition phase.

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The Blue Hawks travel to Jamestown today for a standard 5k race for the women and 8k race for the men. After spotty races defined by a lack of numbers and poor weather, Shroyer thinks the invite will be a much-needed litmus test for his team.

“It’s going to be a good indication of where we’re at,” Shroyer said. “We’re 30 days away from the conference meet; I don’t know where the fall’s went but things have gone pretty quick. We’re excited for this one, though. We’ll see how things go. When we’re all together and healthy, we can do some damage.”

Health has been an issue for the Blue Hawks, especially on the women’s side. A roster that began the season at eight was whittled down to four for the meet in Minneapolis.

In Jamestown, a lack of runners could again cause the women’s side not to place. According to Shroyer, who is and who isn’t going to run is still to be decided. Freshman Lisa Townsend, who is dealing with a foot injury, will be a race-time decision.

Despite the shrinking roster size, sophomore Amanda Wolff’s performance so far has been one of the bright spots for the Blue Hawks. She was the sixth NAIA finisher in Minneapolis on Sept. 24, and shaved nearly two minutes off her time from the same course a year ago, an accomplishment that earned her a runner of the week award from the North Star Athletic Association.

Like Shroyer, she’s excited to see how her team performs.

“We just really want to see how we match up, we’ve only raced against a couple of (NSAA opponents),” Wolff said, “and that was at (the Roy Griak Cross Country Invite), when they didn’t have their whole team and neither did we.”

As far as the actual race goes, she’s excited for that, too. The “Griak” course is rough and hilly, explained Shroyer, and the rain that day didn’t help anything.

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Conversely, the Jamestown course is a smoother ride.

“It’s a fun course. It’s pretty flat. There isn’t much of anything,” Wolff said. “You go out on a couple of little loops then circle back in. It’s also a 5K which is nice, because that’s what our conference meet is.”

On the men’s side, a few runners will be looking to bounce back from shaky performances in Minneapolis. Jonathan Aman, the men’s only senior and top runner from a year ago, was one of those runners.

“Griak was a monster of a race. That’s how it is; one of the toughest courses in the nation,” he said. “This will be more tame. It’s a normal race as far as how hilly it is. This will be a stable 8k that will really help us figure ourselves out. It’s going to be an interesting meet.”

Host Jamestown and Valley City State will both represent the NSAA today. The Blue Hawks may also get a look at a few other conference opponents, “depending on who shows up,” said Shroyer.

Waldorf College, the preseason conference favorite ahead of DSU at No. 2, isn’t expecting to be there. The Warriors were present in Minneapolis, where the men finished 28th and the women didn’t record a team score.

The next time DSU will see them is in the conference meet in November. But that phase is a long way off; Jamestown will be all about competition.

“Jamestown is a nice and continuous course,” Aman said. “We immediately felt how nice it was last year, and we all PR’d on it. I’m hoping for the same success this year.”

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