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BHSU cross country evolution runs on

By Antonia Kucera, University Communications intern

They run with blood, sweat and tears; they run in rain, sun and snow; they are the Black Hills State University cross country teams and a new season warms up as they prepare to make another run for nationals in 2002.

In just his fifth year running the cross country teams at BH, head coach Scott Walkinshaw is optimistic that the season’s challenges can be overcome and both the men and women have a chance to reach nationals.

A legacy has begun at BH for the cross country teams to continue to build on. The men and women were the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics combined team national champions in 2000 and runner up for the same title in 2001. Both teams are ranked in the top 25 in the 2002 NAIA pre-season ratings. Last year was the women’s third consecutive conference championship and the men’s second. The women finished fifth at nationals in 2001, and the men finished ninth despite losing their top runner to injury.

“The (Dakota Athletic) Conference is the big obstacle,” Walkinshaw said. “[DAC-10] is a challenging conference and competes well nationally. We’re going to try and qualify both teams for nationals – that’s part of the goal and the challenges.”

The teams will have some tough competition to face in the DAC-10 this year according to Walkinshaw. The conference is loaded with national caliber teams as well as talented individuals, and Walkinshaw does not think BH will be favored this year.

Another challenge to overcome for the 2002 season is that this year’s teams consist of more than half new recruits. Over the past four years, Walkinshaw built a crew of dedicated athletes, now veterans, who will mingle with the rookies.

“[The team is] young and inexperienced right now,” he said. “A big part of our strength is going to be our leadership.”

Most of the strong runners are returning to fill that role this year. The men lost seniors Rob Marney, Stephen “Scooter” Hayes and Mike McDaniel, who all contributed significantly to the team’s wins last year; Marney finished third at nationals, the highest finish in BH history.

Walkinshaw will work with seniors Nikki Underwood, Brookings, Jesse Palczewski, Reeder, N.D., Dennis Newell, Billings, Mont., and Tim Bishop, Lindsborg, Kan., as veteran runners in their final season at BH. He looks to them as the team leaders.

“[The seniors] know the program. Day in and day out, they know what it is like,” Walkinshaw said. “They have a good idea what is expected of them and that helps tremendously.”

Also returning this season is, for the women’s team: senior Lisa Collogan, Hot Springs; senior Ashley Cordell, Camp Crook; junior Kristi Knudsen, Kenai, Ark.; sophomore Cassie Knutson, Ft. Collins, Colo.; and sophomore Vailferree Brechtel, Hot Springs; and for the men’s team: senior Pat Moriarty, Phillip; senior Greg Starr, Box Elder; junior Andy VanDeest, Lead; and junior Anthony Kitchens, LaPorte, Colo.

Walkinshaw will have his hands full this year with a long list of new recruits. Joining the women’s team is: Barb Amen, Douglas, Wyo.; Rachel Hilgemann, Eureka; Chelsey Anderson, Glenrock, Wyo.; Crystal Hostetter, Thermopolis, Wyo.; Jamie Hahn, Spearfish; and Kristen Pigg, Saratoga, Wyo. Joining the men’s team is Derrick Brown, Dickinson, N.D.; Scott Dannenbring, Yankton; Brandon Bertram, Fargo, N.D.; Ryan Cowger, Cody, Wyo.; Zachary Kintzey, LaPorte, Colo.; and Luke Watkins, Rapid City. Jesse Coy, Hill City, is a junior transfer from the University of South Dakota.

When the head coach hunts for new cross country runners, he also keeps the track season in mind because the athletes usually compete in both sports. Most of the new recruits have been successful in competitions previously but will face some new challenges at BH. Besides the normal adjustments of joining a different team, the new cross country members will find an increase in the distances they are used to running.

Nothing that a strong training regiment in the right location can’t fix. Walkinshaw tells his recruits that the Black Hills are a training Mecca. Spearfish has the right elevation, good running surfaces and excellent facilities. The program takes advantage of the geography that lends to the runners’ success.

“As a coach, it’s great to see individual improvement,” said Walkinshaw, who has seen the cross country teams grow from just five women and two men when he joined in 1998 to a large combined team 26 members strong for 2002. “Cross country is a true team sport. You run individually, but the result is for the team.”

Walkinshaw takes pride in his teams and the cross country program he helped elevate at BH.

“I like how the program has evolved,” he said. “I like the runners, their attitude – I like the sacrifice they make for a chance to be successful. The spirit and desire of the athletes makes me want to do the very best job I can do as a coach.”

BHSU cross country team ranks high in preseason poll - Top

The Black Hills State University men’s and women’s cross country teams are both ranked in the top ten of the NAIA preseason poll.

The women’s team is the top-ranked Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC-10) team with a third place ranking. The University of Mary, ranked 13,  is the only other DAC-10 team in the top 25.

The BHSU men’s cross country team is ranked sixth. Other DAC-10 schools in the top 25 include Minot State (first) and the University of Mary (16th).

The BHSU cross country teams begin their season Sept. 14 in Rapid City.

See 2002 Schedule

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