Cross country teams look ahead to Midwest Regionals


Joclyn Haven

SDSU’s Ben Olson in action at the SDSU Classic Sept. 9 at Edgebrook Golf Course in Brookings. Coming off an individual title in the Summit League Championships, Olson now attempts to qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kenneth Rebello, Sports Reporter

South Dakota State’s cross country teams have had great seasons this year and are all set to make a mark at the NCAA Midwest Regionals Nov. 11 in Columbia, Missouri.

Both teams are coming off successful performances in the Summit League Cross Country Championships Oct. 29 in Grand Forks, ND.

The men’s team secured its record seventh consecutive conference title with 18 points. Ben Olson led the way for the Jackrabbits as he was named individual champion with a first-place finish and a personal-best time of 22:56.1, which was also the fastest time in the 8k run in Summit League history

The women’s team took home second place with 68 points behind North Dakota State, who had 38 points. Although the team finished second, Leah Hansen won the individual title for the third straight year in the 6k run with a personal-best time of 20:01.9.

Both Olson and Hansen were named as the Men’s and Women’s Championship MVPs.

“Our main goal for this Summit League was to win,” coach Rod DeHaven said. “As we measured upon, the men’s team did win but the women’s team effort was a bit short.”

As the teams now set their eyes on the NCAA Midwest Regional, their goals are more focused as the players set their target on qualifying for the Division I Championships.

“Our goals are more realistic,” Olson, a senior from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, said. “Our coach’s expectations are clear that we run the first ten minutes with our heads, and the last ten minutes with our hearts.”

Both teams participated in the Midwest Regionals in Iowa City last year, with the men’s team finishing eighth out of 32 teams while the women’s team placed 13th out of 32 teams. Olson finished the men’s 10K race in 37th place in 31:22.13, while Hansen finished the women’s 6000-meter race in 21st place in 21:15.67.

“We scored the 13th position last year at the NCAA Regional and the goal this year is to achieve a higher position,” Hansen, a junior from Wilmar, Minnesota, said. “Our team has many girls who race smart, and the main goal is to get there fast and to have our team members in sight.”

Olson and Hansen have one goal in common, to place high enough to qualify individually for the upcoming Nationals.

“We have observed that the weather does not seem to look good for the upcoming Regional,” DeHaven said. “Which would help us, as the athletes have experienced it and are prepared for it while the other schools have had their races in pretty decent weather.”

While both teams look confident and prepared against their opponents, the athletes have their eyes set on NDSU.

“From the previous Summit, NDSU has been a tough team and they’re really good,” Hansen said “We plan to defeat them too.”

But DeHaven believes otherwise. While he acknowledged that NDSU is a good opponent, he said that the men’s and women’s teams have defeated them in the past and that the Jackrabbits and Bison have different goals.

The Jackrabbits should feel confident about their goals this year, as the men’s team is returning many athletes from last year.

“Our team participating this year at the Regionals have all returning players,” Olson said. “It’s a veteran group as it would be the last season for most of the players as they graduate.”

And while the women’s team may not have as much experience with many of its athletes last year graduating, it has not stopped them from remaining successful and they have young athletes looking forward to the regional.

The women’s 6K race will be at 9.20 a.m., while the men’s 10K run will take place at 10.10 a.m.