Cross country season promising after wins

Michael Pecha

Michael Pecha

The South Dakota State University cross country team has placed consistently higher in the North Central Conference since Paul Danger was named head coach.

Continuation of this trend this season looks probable as 21 men and 10 women fight for the North Central Conference title and for a high finish at Nationals.

“We return our best people from last year’s men’s and women’s squads, plus we have some newcomers that will be able to step in and contribute right away,” Danger said.

Danger said that he is not only excited about the talent of the returners and newcomers, but he is also excited about how well the members of this year’s teams are getting along with each other.

“These teams have quality runners similar to successful teams in the past, but both of these squads also have the right chemistry,” he said.

“You have to have the talent to win championships – there’s no doubt about that, but you also want your people to be supportive and encourage each other.”

The team began to form this chemistry before the season even began.

In August, many team members went to Custer State Park in the Black Hills for a running and relaxation camp.

The team ran every day and bonded during several other activities, including a trip to Mount Rushmore, a hike up Harney Peak, ultimate frisbee and during the seven hour trip each way between Brookings and Custer.

Many team members said they thought the camp, which has become a yearly event, helped build team unity. Several runners also said that the camp helps freshmen get to know the team, and makes the transition to college easier for them.

With this mix of chemistry and talent, Danger said that he has high expectations for this season, and will push the team.

“Our training this year is somewhat different than what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “Our team is older, and you need to progress training levels as your athletes age.” Danger and his assistant coach, former Division II National Champion Nick Burrow, have put their ideas together to make a training plan that Danger said should be suited for the runners, and relate to the types of courses they will race on this season.

He said that the careful planning of this training routine will help the Jackrabbit squads to aim higher than in past years.

The men’s team won Conference last year and placed seventh at Nationals.

The women placed fifth at Conference, with Sheena Dauer claiming the individual title.

“I want to see both teams keep getting stronger every week,” Danger said. “I’m looking forward to bringing the NCC Title home again on the men’s side, and most of all, seeing our women’s team have a presence on the Conference and National scenes.”

In their first meet of the season at the St. John’s Invitational, both the men and women took first place.

Danger said that he is looking forward to strong finishes as the meets become more competitive as the season goes on.

The Jackrabbit runners run next at Seattle in the Sundodger Invitational Sept. 21.

The rest of the runners will run at St. Olaf in Minnesota on Sept. 27.