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Trip to nationals on the line for Blue Hawks cross country

Way back on Sept. 24 during the Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota, both the men's and women's DSU cross country teams slipped and slid their way through a horrible day of rain, wind and cold weather.

The Dickinson State men's cross country cools down Friday before their conference meet today at the Heart River Golf Course. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
The Dickinson State men's cross country cools down Friday before their conference meet today at the Heart River Golf Course. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

Way back on Sept. 24 during the Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota, both the men's and women's DSU cross country teams slipped and slid their way through a horrible day of rain, wind and cold weather.

Today at 11 a.m., on a date far more susceptible to poor running conditions, the Blue Hawks will host the North Star Athletic Association Cross Country Championships at Heart River Golf Course in sunny, 60-degree weather with virtually no wind. It will be a perfect day for running, and a welcome makeup for the Minnesota race.

"It makes everybody excited. They're not going to wake up in the morning dreading coming out and racing," said head coach Ben Shroyer. "Realistically, it could be 10 degrees out with 50 mile an hour winds. The weather is calling for 65-degree weather and really no wind, so that's playing into the excitement."

On the line for both the men's and women's teams is a chance to advance to the NAIA Nationals on Nov. 19 in Charlotte, N.C., which both teams qualified for last year.

Besides the nice weather - an advantage every other North Star team will have - the Blue Hawks will have the distinction of a familiar home course. While every team had the chance yesterday to jog on and get a feel for it, DSU has been practicing the 8k loop for the men and the 5k loop for the women since the beginning of the week. In a high stakes race with lots of competition, knowing every minute detail is incredibly helpful, sophomore Trey Smollack noted.

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"It's one of those things where you can actually relax and know there is nothing else you need to focus on except running the race. We know the parts where we'll have to hit that hill and how much downhill time we have. We can work the flat spots, we know the turns where we can pull away from people," he said. "It's the little things that could win us the conference."

The top challenge for the men's side, according to Shroyer, will be Waldorf, the team chosen in the preseason to win the conference by NSAA coaches, one spot ahead of DSU.

"We're real close to Waldorf. They have a bad day, we'll probably beat 'em," Shroyer said. "They have a good day, maybe we'll still beat 'em, who knows. We'll see how it plays out."

On the women's side, Shroyer figures Viterbo, and perhaps Jamestown, to be the two most likely teams standing between the Blue Hawks and a trip to nationals.

But from a pure logistic standpoint, the women's team will be benefitting from an important factor they've lacked for the most part of the year - numbers. Already a small roster to begin the season, the Blue Hawks have suffered various injuries throughout the year and failed to place at Griak and the Mt. Marty College Invite in Yankton, S.D., solely because of a lack of available runners.

That fact has made it tough for the women's team to really know its ceiling, said sophomore runner Brittney Grove, but with a full team available, today's breezy home meet would be the perfect time for it all to come together and materialize into a trip to Charlotte.

"Because we did make it to nationals last year we do kind of have our eye on that," Grove said. "(Going back) would mean a lot just because we all have that taste for it. It would nice to not fall back from where we were, to keep improving."

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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