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After an entire month off, the South Dakota School of Mines men’s and women’s indoor track team will get back into action this weekend during the Graphics Edge Open at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- After an entire month off, the South Dakota School of Mines men’s and women’s indoor track team will get back into action this weekend during the Graphics Edge Open at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
The Hardrockers last competed back at the beginning of September at the Black Hills State Fall Classic where they posted some competitive times, including two NAIA national qualifiers in Shannon Hellman (55-meter hurdles) and Eric Voorhees (shot put).
Hellman looks to be the top returner on the women's team after an All American performance at last year’s national indoor meet. The freshman from Rapid City took sixth place at the NAIA meet last year. She was clocked at 8.18 seconds at the BHSU meet for an automatic qualifier which currently gives her the fastest time in the nation in that event
“It’s a good mark for her but I don’t think it will hold,” said Hardrocker head track coach Jerry Schafer of Hellman��s time staying No. 1. “It is early in the season and a lot of people haven’t competed yet or have just started competing. Of course (Hellman’s time) was set in December and she is in better shape than she was a year ago. Obviously we are expecting her to get faster as well.”
The NAIA meet doesn’t have the 55 hurdles, rather the 60 hurdles, which Hellman will compete in. Hellman also has a provisional qualification in the 200 dash. She is currently ranked fifth for Nationals with a time of 26.20.
“Already we can see a big improvement, time wise. She is starting practically where she left off last. Her times (now) are so close to her times at the end of (last) season that she is virtually starting where she left off,” Schafer said. “We would expect that would continue throughout this year and it indicates that she feels stronger this year.”
The rest of the women’s team is made up of a junior, a sophomore and four freshmen. Numbers aren’t plentiful, but are up from a year ago. The rest of the women’s team consist of: junior Beth Hanson (jumps), sophomore Ashley Stewart (jumps/throws), and freshmen Samantha Diede (distance), Katrina Donovan (throws), Jennifer Strong (jumps) and Molly Tobin (distance).
“Our freshmen girls have a great deal of upside in their development,” Schafer said. They have all had good success in high school.”
Tobin and Diede were both on the cross country team and should compete well in the distance event during the track season. Donovan has potential to do well as a Hardrocker. She already set a new personal best record (37-feet-3-inches) back in December, bettering her old mark from high school by almost two feet. Stewart and Strong both are looking good in the jumps and both have the potential to earn provisional marks in those events.
In the Dakota Athletic Conference, the Lady ‘Rockers will look more to individual efforts. Black Hills State and Jamestown look to be the early favorites to take the conference title.
“We don’t expect to score a lot of points because of the lack of numbers,” Schafer said.
For the Hardrocker men, Voorhees will make a return trip to the NAIA meet in the shot put. The senior from Gillette, Wyo., bettered his own Hardrocker school record with a toss of 52-feet-1-inch, which puts him third in the nation right now. Schafer said he was impressed with Voorhees’ start to this season and feels he will excel this year. Another senior that was at Nationals a year ago and returning this season is Jake Donnelly. A sprinter from Elk Point, Donnelly just missed out on All American status, taking seventh at the NAIA meet in 2006. Donnelly hasn’t competed yet this season, but should have a good chance again to return to the NAIA meet in the 200 as well as the 100. Schafer also plans to run him in the 400 dash this weekend to gauge what event best suits him.
Junior Chandler Caldwell looks to be competitive in the pole vault. After placing second at the BH meet, clearing 14-6 feet and tying a Mines all time record, the Thornton, Colo., native is poised to break the provisional mark of 15 feet as well as the automatic of 15-6 which will get him to Nationals.
Sophomore Colton Reid is another that is on the verge of having a breakout year. From Colstrip, Mont., Reid was less than a second from breaking his own 600 record and also has a good shot of going to the national meet. Reid clocked a time of 1:25.76 at the BHSU meet.
“They both have great shots to auto-qualify for nationals,” Schafer added.
The rest of the Hardrocker roster also possesses a lot of depth and talent. Senior Shane Hauge is back and after competing for the SDSMT cross country team, looks to continue his efforts for the track team as a distance runner. The team also has a number of juniors consisting of Tyler Flattum (hurdles), Kyle Kattke (distance), Rob Hahn (distance) and Colin Royer (sprints). The sophomores are: Scott Anderson (mid distance), Matt Deardorff (throws), and Andy Lein (distance). The freshmen class is made up of: Erik Bjornebo (distance), John Heine (sprints), Nate Hicks (distance), Dustin Jordan (sprints), Marcus Moor (distance) and Jason Simmons (sprints).
“We have a young core of athletes that give us a lot of depth on our men’s team,” Schafer said.
Add in NCAA Division I transfer Mark Wager from Gettysburg, S.D. and the team is filling up nicely. Wager was the South Dakota Class B state champion in the 200 dash (23.10) and was runner-up in the 400 (50.19).
Looking at the Dakota Athletic Conference, Schafer felt that Black Hills State, Jamestown College and Dickinson seemed to be the top contenders. He also said the Hardrockers could be competitive and cause some trouble for those teams.
“I would like for us to be in the top half of the DAC,” the coach said. “I would certainly want us to improve on last year and get as many (athletes) to the NAIA meet as we can.”
The Hardrockers will compete pretty solid from here to the end of February. The DAC meet will be held at BHSU Feb. 23-24 and the indoor season will end with the NAIA meet March 8-10 in Johnson City, Tenn.
“Overall, we hope to improve on last year,” Schafer said. “We may not have as many impact athletes, but as far as talent, we have the potential to do better.”
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