By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- On the surface, college cross country appears to be a fairly simple sport. You run either five or eight kilometers and you try to do so in the shortest amount of time.
But ask South Dakota School of Mines head cross country coach Jerry Schaffer about it and he may give a more complex answer with various factors and obstacles thrown in.
To the Hardrocker coach, it’s more of a numbers game.
The Dakota Athletic Conference cross country meet is schedule for Friday in Dickinson and the Hardrockers along with the rest of the conference has many things to consider in order to have a successful outing.
The women’s and men’s race will be run at the Heart River Golf Course in Dickinson.
“On a scale of one to five, one being easiest and five being toughest, it’s probably about a three course,” Schaffer said. ���It is pretty smooth and there are some long, gradual inclines. It starts and finishes on an incline so that makes it a little bit challenging.”
Another big factor in predicting the outcome is the weather. Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s to go along with 20 mile an hour wind gusts.
“That will also add an element of challenge,” Shaffer said.
The men run an 8k race. The Hardrocker team has been competitive all season, both individually and as a team. Unfortunately for Friday’s race, SDM will be without their No. 5 runner Marcus Moor. The sophomore from Kadoka, S.D., recently suffered a foot injury and ended up with a fractured toe.
With Moor out, that will compute into the ‘Rockers outcome.
“Our top four (athletes) will be running and our sixth and seventh runners will participate,” Schaffer explained. “They will just have to step up. Everyone will have to step up and improve enough to make up for what we miss in Marcus. With Marcus out of there, we probably won’t be as strong as we could have been.”
Mines top three runners are made up of seniors Rob Hahn (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Kyle Kattke (Black Hawk, S.D.) and junior Colton Reid (Colstrip, Mont.).
“Right now all three are running very well,” Schaffer said. “All three have been our top runner at different times during the season and they are fairly interchangeable.”
Freshman Lucas Fried (Kodiak, Ala.) is also thrown in the mix as the No. 4 harrier for SDM. He was considered the No. 2 athlete at the beginning of the season, but illness the past couple of meets has hindered his performance and dropped him down in the team rankings.
“He is very capable of running with those three and even possible beating those three if he were to put together a great race,��� Schaffer said of Fried.
With the absence of Moor, the Hardrockers sixth and seventh runners will have to contribute. Those spots are filled by freshman Corbin Haller (Sidney, Neb.) and sophomore Erik Bjornebo (Sioux Falls, S.D.).
“One of them is going to have to score for us this week so we need one of them to step up if not both of them,” the coach added. Black Hills State and Dickinson look to battle for the conference crown with South Dakota Mines a good contender for the No. 3 spot. But one never knows how the race will turn out until it is ran.
“We have to put our best race on the course and see what happens,” Schaffer said. “If we run like we are capable of, everybody else better bring their ‘A’ game.”
On the women’s side, South Dakota Mines will compete a full team for the first time in 10 years and Friday marks the first SDM team that has raced in a DAC meet.
The women run a 5k course and the race again is a complex numbers game for Schaffer.
The Top three women are freshmen Kendra Crisman (Rapid City, S.D.), Brittany Hovdenes (Rapid City, S.D.) and Samantha Diede (Huron, S.D.). The other three SDM runners are freshmen Molly Vukelich (Rapid City, S.D.), Kim Kerce (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and junior Jessie Chretien (Rapid City, S.D.).
“If our fourth through sixth runners really improve and close the gap on our first through third runners, we could place high,” Schaffer said. “We will have to bring our ‘A’ game and see what happens.”
Kerce and Vukelich have been out the past couple weeks with injuries and Chretien has been improving each time she’s raced. Schaffer is also high on his two local freshmen thinking they may score in the top half of the field
“Maybe even better than that,” Schaffer added. “It just depends on what type of race they put together on that particular day.”
Crisman and Hovdenes both have a very good shot at placing in the Top 15 and earning DAC All-Conference honors.
Black Hills State is the favorite to win the women’s race with Dickinson, Minot State and Jamestown College all giving chase as well.
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