Cross country teams both finish in top 10 at Nationals

Michael Pecha

Michael Pecha

A long season of hard training came to an end for South Dakota State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams on Saturday, as both teams came away with top ten finishes at the NCAA Division II cross country championships in Ashland, OH.

The men’s team finished fourth, while the women improved on their 15th place national ranking, finishing seventh.

“The teams ran the best they have all season,” head coach Paul Danger said. “This is the main goal at the national championships.”

Brad Lowery, Kevin Doe and Greg Darbyshire all earned All-American honors.

Lowery finished 15th in 32:00.8, Doe finished 17th in 32:00.9 and Darbyshire finished 19th in 32:04.4.

“These three ran great,” Danger said. “I knew we needed to have three in the top 20, and they got the job done. Matt Pearson and Andy Blau provided the depth for the guys to make that top-four place. We ran within 55 seconds from out top runner to our fifth. You need a close group like that to do well.”

Pearson finished 44th in 32:47.6, while Blau finished 48th in 32:54.5.

Kevin Bjerke (33:31.4) and Mike Steele (33:50.3) finished 81st and 99th, respectively.

The men’s fourth place finish was the highest finish for SDSU since 1996 when they won the national championship.

In the 46 year history of the Division II national meet, SDSU has only failed to qualify once.

In those 46 years the Jackrabbits have won five times, which is tied with Western State for the most national championships in Division II.

Coach Danger said this year’s high finish was exciting, but the improvements the Jackrabbits have made since he started coaching are even more important.

SDSU improved three spots over last year’s seventh place finish, and 12 places over Danger’s first national trip in 1999.

The Jackrabbit women came away with an unexpected seventh-place national finish.

This was the highest a team from SDSU has finished since 1996.

Sheena Dauer led the Jackrabbits, finishing 14th in 22:31.3.

“This was Sheena’s first All American award, which is exciting,” Danger said. “Erin Woolley and Alyssa Ruedebusch had great races as well.”

Woolley finished 45th in 23:25.1 while Ruedebusch finished 60th in 23:37.9.

“This was Alyssa’s best race of her career at SDSU,” Danger said. “Our two true freshmen, Krystie Ratzlaff and Megan Poppens came through for us too.”

Ratzlaff finished 57th in 23:34.0, while Poppens finished 73rd in 23:52.9.

Erin Foss (24:14.0) and Katie Tornberg (24:42.7) rounded out the Jackrabbit squad, finishing 94th and 125th, respectively.

The Jackrabbits will now take a couple of weeks of recovery time before beginning training for the track season.

“This has been an outstanding season for both of our teams,” Danger said. “The runners trained hard and competed with pride. They represented South Dakota State University well.”