Jacks hope for champion

Men’s and women’s cross country teams looking to repeat as conference champions

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

Coming off winning the Summit League championship last season, both the South Dakota State cross-country teams are preparing for their title defense this season.

The men’s and women’s teams both had impressive seasons, with the women winning their second-straight conference title, and the men winning their sixth in a row. SDSU is also coming off impressive indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, with the men claiming the indoor Summit League title.

 Hopes for the men’s and women’s teams are high again this year, with many key athletes from last season’s title teams returning along with key additions to the team.

One of those key additions to this year’s coaching staff is Alex Muntefering. He previously coached at SDSU as a graduate student before coaching for three years at Texas State overseeing the middle and long-distance runners.

“We are excited to have Alex back with us at SDSU,” Director of Track and Field Rod DeHaven said. “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to land a coach with his experience as both an athlete and a coach.”

While with the Bobcats, Muntefering helped lead the women’s team to their first-ever Sun Belt Conference championship in 2017. He also helped the men’s team to their highest-ever finish at the NCAA South Central Region Cross Country Championships with a fifth-place showing.

“On his own, he was successful at Texas State, and he knows how to deal with me. He can also connect with the student-athletes because he is a guy who has been both,” DeHaven said.

Last season, the women’s team won their second conference title in a row by a narrow margin, finishing with 56 points to runner-up North Dakota State’s 55.

“For the women (SDSU’s women’s cross-country team) to place first by one point was satisfying for us,” DeHaven said.

This season may prove to be a challenging one for the women’s team, with many of their athletes from last year graduating. But DeHaven is confident that his returning athletes and other newcomers will make an impact.

“We need to see our younger runners step up this season,” DeHaven said. 

Among the women returning for the Jacks is Leah Hansen. Hansen was the individual Summit League champion last year, and she was also named Summit League female athlete of the year.

The men’s team is looking to win their seventh-consecutive Summit League title. They are coming off a season where they easily won the Summit League title and finished eighth in the NCAA Midwest Regionals.

But this season could also be more of a challenge for the men’s team, as they are losing some key athletes to graduation.

One of them was fifth-year senior Gabe Peters. Last season, Peters won the individual conference title, earned all-conference honors for the fifth time, and was the Summit League male athlete of the year.

South Dakota’s first meet of the cross-country season will be the Augustana Twilight in Sioux Falls Friday, Sep. 2.

SDSU’s first home meet will take place Sep. 9 at 6 p.m. at Edgebrook golf course, a week after their first meet of the season.