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South Dakota School of Mines men’s and women’s cross country teams will look to extend their with a good showing at the NAIA Region III Championships which will be held Saturday at the Prairie Green Golf Course in Sioux Falls
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The South Dakota School of Mines men’s and women’s cross country teams will look to extend their with a good showing at the NAIA Region III Championships which will be held Saturday at the Prairie Green Golf Course in Sioux Falls. The women’s 5K race will start at 11 a.m., and the men’s 8K will follow.
After taking third place two weeks ago at the Dakota Athletic Conference meet in Minot, North Dakota, the Hardrocker men’s team feels confident for another good outing at the regional level.
Region III consists of teams from the DAC as well as the Great Plains Conference --- making a total of 18 squads.
“On paper we look like we are the fifth or sixth team,” said Hardrocker head coach Jerry Schafer. “That’s how we feel and that’s where we finished last year. There are four teams rated ahead of us.”
Black Hills State is obviously high on the list (ranked 9th in the NAIA) and the defending champion in the men’s race. Concordia University (Neb.) is ranked 15th, Doan College (Neb.) has the 19th rating and Dickinson State in ranked 24th.
All those teams, along with the rest of the field, will be vying for the Region III title in order to advance to the NAIA National Championships to be held Nov. 18 in Loiusiville, Ky. It appears that BHSU is on track to defend their title, but hope is not lost for the Hardrocker harriers. The NAIA also picks 15 at-large teams and is where SDM hopes to make their mark.
“All four of those teams have a good shot at an at-large bid for nations,” Schafer said of the national ranked Region III teams. “For us to qualify for nationals we would have to beat, at least, one of those four teams at the regional meet.”
And after last year’s region event, Schafer said that the Blue Hawks look to be their best option.
“Because Dickinson only beat us by 10 points last year at the region meet, we think we have as good, or maybe even a little better team then we had last year,���� Schafer said. “Dickinson has as good or a bit better team then a year ago, but we think we have a shot at knocking off one of those rated teams (excluding BHSU).”
Both the Yellow Jackets and Blue Hawks finished ahead of Mines at the DAC meet. BHSU took first, Dickinson second and the Hardrockers grabbed third, just five points off the pace.
Schafer and his team have been working hard since the conference meet, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to knock off Dickinson and be considered as an at-large team.
“We are very confident. We have done very well over the last two weeks and we are starting our process of sharpening things up. We are as ready as we will every be,” Schafer said.
Individually, senior Kyle Kattke (Black Hawk) and freshman Nate Hicks (Yankton) look to be the top runners for SDM. Hicks earned all-conference honors with a 15th-place finish at the DAC Championships and Kattke wasn’t far behind, finishing 18th. Add in the fact that the 1-5 runners were just 29 seconds apart and things are shaping up nicely for the Hardrocker harriers. “Our pack is so good that anyone of our Top 5 guys has a shot, if they have a phenomenal day, of moving up and maybe getting an individual qualifying position.”
The Top 7 individual finishers, whose school does not qualify for nationals, will receive a bid to compete for an individual championship.
“If we get one or two individuals qualified for Nationals, then we believe our team would then be considered (for an at-large bid),” Shafer said. “Our team is running so well that if any one or two individuals step up then that will make our team that much better.”
Along with Kattke and Hicks, SDM has some quality runners in senior Shane Hague (New Underwood), Rob Hahn (Sioux Falls), Andy Lein (Gordon, Neb.), sophomore Colton Reid (Colstrip, Mont.) and Marcus Moor (Kadoka).
But with so many good individual athletes in the approximately 150-man race, the Hardrockers will have to have their best race of the season.
The course is a flat fast golf course that bodes well for Mines’ middle distant runners like Hague and Reid, but not so good for the distant runners like Kattke, Lein and Hicks.
“It’s not a challenging course, but it is a fair course,” Shafer said. “We have trained with that course in mind all year. We have tried to emphasize a little more of the speed work rather than the strength work.”
Black Hills State looks to repeat as the Region III champions for the fourth-straight year. Concordia’s Luka Thor, the 2005 men’s individual winner, returns seeking another individual championship as a sophomore. Concordia only trailed Black Hills by 12 points in last year��s championship. Doane College, the 2005 third-place finisher, is coming off a second place GPAC finish.
In the women’s race, the Hardrockers will not field a full team --- as has been the case all season. Freshmen Molly Tobin (Lincoln, Neb.) and Samantha Diede (Huron) will compete and put forth their best efforts. Diede finished 26th in the conference race while Tobin was forced to drop out after breathing difficulties.
“Sam is probably running her best this season and looks to finish in the top 25 percent,” Shafer said of Saturday’s race. “Molly is a little ways back but should finish somewhere in top 50 percent.
Like the men’s race, Black Hills State took the 2005 women’s championships, placing five runners in the Top 10. It marked the fourth region championships for the Black Hills women in the last five years. This season, the Yellow Jackets won its seventh DAC title since 1999. Concordia University finished second last year with 74 points, followed by Jamestown College. The 2005 individual winner, Genevieve Binsfeld from Minot State, returns in search for her fourth consecutive Region III first-place finish. The women’s meet will feature three schools ranked in the top 25 of the NAIA ratings.
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