Track athletes ready for return after shortened season


Sydney Smith, Sports Reporter (She/Her)

The South Dakota State University track team has been constantly preparing for their long-awaited return to competition, and this year holds both an indoor and outdoor season in their future.

After their outdoor season was canceled earlier this year, the staff and athletes are ready to be back.

“I’m looking forward to this season more than ever because of the cancelation of it last year,” junior sprinter Emmanual Phoulom-Smith said. “I didn’t really get a chance to show what I could do and now, hopefully, I’ll get that chance.”

According to head coach Rod DeHaven, the path to prepping for this season has not been like usual, much like many other teams.

“We started a bit later and tried to ease into it a bit, but certainly we’ve had stoppages like most teams,” DeHaven said. “We’ve just been doing normal for as much as possible.”

Practices have happened in smaller groups than usual while requiring masks and constant sanitization.

“Now after those first few weeks, that just all seems normal,” said fifth-year senior hurdler Haley Mottinger. “It’s been pretty high energy and you can tell that everyone’s still excited to just be back.”

She went on to say that the excitement and drive is helping push a lot of the athletes through these months of practicing, all anxious to have a real meet.

As for what is to come, DeHaven is hopeful that the team is able to have both indoor and outdoor meets this season.

“This year there’ll be some challenges and some things that we’re working on with the JacksRBack group to try and host a track meet initially before Christmas,” he said.

DeHaven added that he hopes the season can continue after the holidays and that SDSU could potentially host the Summit League Indoor Championship this year, which was moved from Vermillion last year due to a schedule conflict.

He said that an indoor and outdoor season is typical for a college athlete to go through and is anticipating that it works out as planned.

“After completely missing last year’s outdoor season, we’re very hopeful that we can get that in as well,” DeHaven said.

As for Mottinger, who only has eligibility for the outdoor season, returning and planning for outdoor competition is the best part. 

“Not being able to work or anything just kind of made me very thankful for all that we took for granted before,” she said. “Even practicing makes me excited now because that’s something that at one point we weren’t able to do. I’ll be even more excited when we get to travel and actually race.” 

The excitement that has built up these past months has also resulted in a close team of athletes who want everyone to succeed and thrive. 

“I hope the team places high in the conference and has everybody who really didn’t get to see the track last year show what they can do and have fun on the track,” Phoulom-Smith said. 

With “lots of key athletes” returning to the team this year, according to DeHaven, he also wants to give every athlete a chance to compete. 

“They just want to put on a jersey that represents their university and get a chance to show what they’re capable of,” he said.