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With the Dakota Athletic Conference Indoor Track Championships taking place this weekend, the South Dakota School of Mines thinclads will have one final chance to qualify for the NAIA National Meet, slated for March 8-10 in Johnson City Tenn
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- With the Dakota Athletic Conference Indoor Track Championships taking place this weekend, the South Dakota School of Mines thinclads will have one final chance to qualify for the NAIA National Meet, slated for March 8-10 in Johnson City Tenn.
The DAC meet will be held at the Black Hills State field house in Spearfish which is set to start Friday night and continue through Saturday.
With low numbers, the Hardrockers will not be able to challenge for a conference title, but individually, look to put forth their best efforts of the year.
“We are anticipating that everybody will step up and have a good day,” said Hardrocker head coach Jerry Schafer. “That’s what we are training for and that’s our mindset --- go in and have our best performance to date. Our goal is to have everybody contribute to the team scoring.”
SDM currently has two national qualifiers in sophomore sprinter Shannon Hellman (Rapid City) and senior weight thrower Eric Voorhees. Hellman is qualified in the 55-meter hurdles and the 200 dash and is provisionally qualified in the 55 dash. She is the defending conference 55-hurdle and 200 champion and took third in the 55 dash a year ago. Schafer said he plans to run her in those races again Saturday, along with the 400 dash.
“She leads the conference in three of the four events (55, 400 and 55 hurdles) and she’s third in the 200 dash,” Schafer said. “It will be a tough day for her because she’s running so many racing. This will be the biggest challenge she will have had in the two years on our team. We feel like she’s strong enough and up for the challenge.”
Voorhees is entered in the shot put and weight throw. The civil engineering major has the third best distance in the DAC for the shot put behind Eric Flores and Tyg Long, both of Black Hills State. They not only hold the conference marks at 56-feet-0-inches and 55-10 respectively, those distances are also the Top 2 in the nation. Voorhees in currently 10th in the NAIA with a season-best toss of 52-1.25
“After last week, I would expect he will get off a personal best in the shot put,” Shafer said. “The two throwers from Black Hills State are pretty tough, so (Voorhees) will have his work cut out for him to catch them.”
The Hardrockers have three other athletes that have met the provisional standards and are on the verge of earning an automatic qualification --- Jake Donnelly (Elk Point) in the 200 dash, Chandler Caldwell (Thornton, Colo.) in the pole vault and Tyler Flattum (Bristol) in the 55 hurdles.
Donnelly has a season-best time of 22.58 and is just five-tenths of a second away from hitting the automatic time and Flattum’s best time this year in the hurdles is 8.08 and needs to cut about a second off to reach the auto mark.
“They both have a good chance at an automatic qualifier,” Schafer added.
Caldwell earned his provisional height in the pole vault event early in the season and has been ever so close of going over the automatic height (15-6) all year.
“He’s as ready as he’s going to be. He has been close for the last month,” Schafer said. “He just has to sharpen up at the top end of his vault and he should be able to clear it big.” The Hardrockers also have a number of athletes right on the bubble, which are very close to marks that would get them a provisional qualification and a possible ticket to Johnson City.
Colton Reid, a sophomore from Colstrip, Mont., and Shane Hague, a senior out of New Underwood, are both strong contenders in the 800 run. They are both about 2 seconds off the pace for a provisional (1:56.40) and should both be fighting for a DAC title in the race.
“They have both been running really well in the half. They should challenge for the top spot in that race and they have a chance to qualify (for Nationals) as well,” Schafer said. “Even though they haven’t hit a provisional yet, they are running very well and have a good chance to qualify.”
Another distance runner, Kyle Kattke, a junior from Black Hawk, will be competing in the 5,000 run, a race that he should have success in, according to Schafer.
“He should be quite competitive. The longer the race, the better it suits him,” Schafer added. “He has the ability to run really well and a provisional mark is in reach.���
Kattke, who’s best time this year is 16:08.61, would have to shave 30 seconds off to reach that time, and Schafer feels there is a good chance of that happening.
Also hoping to qualify are women’s high jumpers Jenny Strong and Ashley Stewart. Both have improved by leaps and bounds this season. Stewart best height is just over 5-1, while Strong has cleared just under 5-0. The provisional mark is 5-3.
“Both have been high jumping very well the last couple of weeks. They are getting a little sharper each week,” Shafer said.
The head coach added that Beth Hansen, a junior from Baltic, has also joined the high jumping crew and is also a contender after battling back from an early-season injury.
Schafer also said there will be a couple of athletes to keep an eye on at the conference meet, who will be good “point getters” for the Hardrockers. They include: freshman Mark Wager (Gettysburg) in the 400, sophomore Matt Deardoff in the shot put (Brandon) and basically all the SDM distance runners.
The Mines men will also run the three relay races –4x200, 4x400 and 4x800. It will be the first time that SDM has run both the 4x200 and 4x800 this season.
“The 4x400 will be by far our strongest of the three relay teams,” Schafer said. “Right now we are ranked fifth in the conference. Dickinson has the personnel to be way out front, but second on down is wide open.”
The 4x400 SDM squad consists of Wager, Dustin Jordan (Pierre), Colin Royer (Ft. Pierre and Donnelly and their best time has been clocked at 3:30.61.
The Lady Hardrocker won’t be able to stay competitive in the team rankings, only rostering six women. The men’s numbers are a little better with 18, but still it will be a stretch to go against schools with full lineups.
“It’s a strong team. They are very competitive,” said Schafer of the Hardrocker men. “We just don’t have the depth to be a conference or team challenger. We are a very young team and really very excited to see how well we can develop over the coming months and years.”
Schafer added that the DAC favorites for the men would be BHSU, Jamestown College and Dickinson State while the women’s title will come down to Black Hills State and Dickinson. The coach added that South Dakota Mines could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the men’s conference race and the girls could go as high as fifth.
“It’s a well balanced conference. It’s probably more balanced this year than I have seen in a number of years,” Schafer said.
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