Needs of many, need of one

Mike Schaefer

Mike Schaefer

Cross country, as a sport, is a bit of an enigma. The competition itself is nearly completely individual. Yet, at the same time, a team strategy is important to succeed. The runners must work as a unit to finish as high as possible. That kind of commitment is formed through bonding and coaching.

Coach Rod DeHaven knows all about SDSU cross country. DeHaven not only coaches the current team, but was a former SDSU runner. He placed third in 1986 and 1987 in nationals. Now, as the coach of the team, he uses his experience and knowledge to help get his team in the best position to win.

“It’s a bit like tug-of-war, to get people through the race,” DeHaven said.

His game is a tough one. He needs to find a way to get everyone ready for one long run. Perhaps he may not have the game-day tactics, but the practices are designed for coaching.

“A lot of my coaching comes in the preparation for the race. I look for the strengths and weaknesses in our team,” he said.

He uses some different strategies based on the different races and competitors. He takes his team all over the county to get them ready for the different terrains on which they might compete. Typically, the Jacks run on golf courses.

Few members join the team to become superstars. The team truly comes first in this individually-paced sport. Everyone else is just playing their designated roles.

“I tend to run, based off of my teammates. I try to stay with them,” said runner Shannon Hattervig.

A junior at SDSU, Hattervig has been running cross country and track for the past two years. A former two-sport athlete from Rapid City, she enjoys running. She, like other runners, is here on a track/cross-country scholarship. The athletes typically use the weaker season to build and prepare for the stronger one. Hattervig is no exception, as she uses cross country to prepare herself for track.

“It’s an individual and team-oriented sport. With track and cross country, you run with a lot of determination and desire,” Hattervig said.

Most runners’ biggest fear is hitting the wall during the race. The wall means different things to different people. Most people compare it to a mental block. Everything slows down, and your body can feel the fatigue and the pain. Hattervig describes the wall like an enemy.

“For me, it is when my legs feel like two logs and I can’t move them. I hope to catch a second wind to get going. It can happen at anytime. I think it’s more mental then physical,” said Hattervig, who finished 32nd in the SDSU Classic.

Cross country only has one home meet per year, but it is certainly an interesting one for both the coaches and the runners. Edgebrook, the site of the SDSU Classic, is a course that the Jackrabbits are used to running.

“We practice on the course and we are pretty used to it,” said Hattervig.

For her, the Classic is one of the most exciting races of the year because of the fan support and no travel time. She enjoys the support and cheering the crowd gives as the athletes run by.

One local fan, Emilie Smithback watched the SDSU Classic with her husband and daughter.

“Really it’s not hard. You find a spot where you know they’ll run by. You get there and just start screaming. Once they go by, you run to another spot where they will pass and you cheer again. Finally you want to get to the finish line, where you continue screaming,” said Smithback.

Cross country is truly an enigma, a sport where the coach’s practices are all he has, where there are no timeouts, and only one shot to take the prize. Cross country is a sport with athletes that put their bodies through rigorous workouts every day, where most runners are mere role players and not superstars and a good team finish means more than individual success.

#1.884168:3174841694.jpg:xcountry02.jpg:SDSU’s Zach Frohling jumps out in front of the pack early in the SDSU Classic at Edgebrook Golf Course in Brookings, S.D. on Sept. 30.: