Optimism, expectation high for Hardrocker harriers
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY ‐‐‐ In sports it is usually a safe bet that the head coach of any particular team is hopeful his athletes and team are at a level that allows them to compete against other athletes and teams. Call it being optimistic.
South Dakota School of Mines cross country head coach Jerry Schafer, now in his 23rd year at the helm for the Hardrockers, is as optimistic as he’s ever been as the 2008 season is finally ready to unfold.
“This is probably the most optimistic I have been since our freshmen class of 1990,” Schafer said referring to the 2008 version of his men’s squad. “(The 1990 group) came in and won two district championships and a conference championship over five years. These athletes (in 2008) are as good, possibly even more talented, than that class.”
The top returnees for this year’s squad are: sophomore Lucas Fried (a Civil and Environmental Engineering major from Kodiak, Ak.) and junior Marcus Moor (an Electrical Engineering major from Kadoka, S.D.). Schafer said they both showed up to practice very fit and looking stronger than a year ago.
“We are looking for great improvement out of them,” Schafer said.
Add four accomplished freshmen to the roster and it’s easy to see why Schafer is excited to get the season started. The newcomers are Matt Pike (Winnemucca, Nev.), Thomas Everett (Missoula, Mont.), Eben Nordahl (Molt, Mont.) and Blake James (Friendswood, Texas). All four have quite a list of accomplishment. Pike is a two‐time state cross country champion, Everett is a Top 5 finisher at the Montana State Cross Country Championships, Nordahl took fourth place in the Class C division of the Montana State Meet and James is an accomplished distance runner that will also excel during track season.
“Right now all four of those guys, at least in practice, appear to be interchangeable,” Schafer said. “They all show a competitive spirit and desire and drive to get better and beat people. We think this is a good bunch of freshmen athletes that we can build on and grow from.”
And according to Schafer finding out who his 1‐6 runners are is going to be somewhat of a problem. There appears to be no clear cut favorite in the group.
“It’s a nice problem to have if six guys are interchangeable. We hope to get some things done,” Schafer said. “This is a group that has worked hard. My job is to help them improve and get better and keep them healthy. Right now we think we have good depth through our top six runners. That alone should make us stronger than the last few years.”
Also on the Hardrocker men���s team are: junior Scott Anderson (a Mechanical Engineering major from Watertown, S.D.), senior Andy Lein (a Civil and Environmental Engineering major from Gordon, Neb.), and junior Colton Reid (a Computer Engineer from Colstrip, Mont.). Reid and Anderson however will be redshirting this season.
Gone from the squad are Rob Hahn and Kyle Kattke. Hahn was a national cross country qualifier last season and Kattke was a solid runner his four years on the team earning NAIA Scholar Athlete honors multiple times.
Schafer is equally optimistic about the Lady Hardrocker team as he has seven athletes on the roster ‐‐‐ a rare find for SD School of Mines. In past years, the ‘Rockers have struggled to fill a full team (five runners).
“I am very pleased that we have seven women out this year,” Schafer added.
After a stellar rookie season, sophomores Kendra Crisman (an interdisciplinary Science major from Rapid City, S.D.) and Brittney Hovdenes (an Engineering major from Rapid City, S.D.) return with a year of experience and strength for even better results in 2008.
“Kendra Crisman and Brittney Hovdenes reported in better shape than last year. I am expecting good things from them, “Schafer said. “We expect Kendra and Brittney to be up in the lead group in most meets. We have very high goals set for them. The rest of the women’s team we want to see develop and get stronger.”
Junior Jessica Chretien (a Industrial Engineering major from Rapid City) and sophomore Kim Kerce (a Geological Engineering major from Colorado Springs, Colo.) round out the list of returning harriers. New to the women’s squad are: sophomore Ashley Kirkegaard (Math and Computer Science major from Britton, S.D.) and freshmen Kelsey Feist (Chemistry major from Deadwood, S.D.) and Christina Quiett (Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering major from Gettysburg, S.D.).
“How well the team does this year will be determined by how well our third through seventh runners improve,” Schafer said. “They need time to develop.”
Looking at the conference and where the South Dakota School Mines might measure up on either the men’s or women’s side, Schafer said it’s complicated to gauge.
“Week in and week out we see some of the best teams in the country because our conference is one of the best in the country,” the coach said. “Sometimes we don’t look like we are competing all that well against our local competition, but when you put us in the bigger picture, we are a very competitive team and moving up.”
The Dakota Athletic Conference is one of the toughest in the country and with nationally ranked teams like Black Hills State and Dickinson State it’s pretty easy to see why.
The Hardrockers open the season Saturday at the Black Hills State Invitational in Spearfish, S.D. The Yellow Jacket men were ranked No. 2 in the nation in the latest poll and the Blue Hawks rounded out the list at No. 10. The BHSU women also found their names in the rankings, coming in at No. 8. Montana State Billings, Concordia‐Moorhead, Rocky Mountain College and Gillette Community College will also be at Saturday’s meet.
The Black Hills State Invite will be held on the back nine of Spearfish Canyon Country Club. The women’s race is slated to start at 8:30 a.m. with the men to follow straight up at 9 a.m.
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