XC climbing the Summit in 2015

Strong finishes in last year’s Summit League Championships have the South Dakota State men’s and women’s cross country teams aiming even higher this year.  

The men finished second and the women third in last October’s title chase in Fargo, N.D. Both teams want to finish on top this season.  

“Pretty high expectations, we have a lot of good runners. We are looking for a bid to the NCAA Championships,” senior Trent Lusignan said. 

Head coach Rod DeHaven is looking for the same type of performance from the men.

“Expectations are in our guys’ hands. Are they going to make the right choices, the right kind of commitment to be the best they can possibly be? If they do, we think that we have a chance to be successful,” DeHaven said. 

The men’s team should be confident going into the season in which they return their top two runners, Lusignan and Joel Reichow, this season after missing most of the last year due to injury. Lusignan is a former Summit League champion who is looking to regain his form after missing all of last season with a stress fracture in his foot.

The women look to lead the charge in the Summit League, which has been a team goal since they finished second in the league championships in 2013. 

“Two years ago we finished second with a young team. After that meet, we said as a team that when the conference championship is in Brookings, we want to win it all,” DeHaven said. 

With the University of South Dakota’s Coyote women’s team finishing first and the North Dakota State University’s women’s team finishing second, that goal may not be as easy as it sounds. 

“We somehow have to find a way to leapfrog one of those teams—our goal is to move up one spot and then see if we can move up two spots,” DeHaven said.

One runner who DeHaven can look to for leadership is senior Jessica Eibs, who was named to the Summit League all-first team last season. 

“I hope to have improvements again for this season,” Eibs said, as she looks to build off a strong junior campaign. She is coming into the season injured after suffering a bone bruise in her left leg over the summer, but she said the injury “sparks more determination to get back stronger and keep a positive mentality.” 

One of the biggest storylines heading into the season is that this is the first year SDSU will be hosting the Summit League Championship race in Brookings, their first time hosting a conference championship since 1993. 

“This is very exciting for our program to host a conference championship, so we certainly want to perform very well. We should feel very comfortable. Every runner has it circled on their calendars and as a coach this what I’m most excited about,” DeHaven said. 

Eibs says that being at home could really factor into the team excelling in the race.

“It will be an advantage being on our course knowing what to expect and being able to have more supporters to cheer us on, which will help us stay positive during the race,” Eibs said. 

The Jackrabbits open the season at the Bison Invitational in Fargo, N.D., Sept. 4 and will host the conference championship Oct. 31. They also will host the annual SDSU Classic at Edgebrook Golf Course on Oct. 3.