The University of South Dakota cross country athletes will participate in the Summit League Championship Oct. 27 in Rochester, Mich.
For first-year Amber Eichkorn, the thought of competing well for her teammates is her main focus because she never had the opportunity in high school.
“Everyone on the team has their own strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “When we all come together for a race, we all try to push each other. If someone’s going down and we’re coming up on them, we’ll give them a pat on the back and try to get them to run with us. That way we can finish in a pack, and that helps the overall team score.
“It’s a lot better if we win as a team instead of just individually,” Eichkorn said. “I always feel more accomplished if the whole team does well than if it was just me.”
Head coach Dan Fitzsimmons said the conference meet is what the team works for all season long, and will be the team’s outward expression of how they work together.
“I told our athletes at this point in the year, when you’re in your dorm room or your apartment, you’re thinking about what you can do to be better. But at the bottom line you’re thinking about what you can do to make your teammates better.”
This is the second year USD will compete in the Summit League Championships, and for senior Ethan Marquardt, going in with more experience will help.
“When we had our first experience with the Summit League Championship it opened up a whole new door – a whole new competition area. It was a lot more in depth,” he said. “We have a better understanding of where we should be this time around. Knowing that we can compete with these guys, it’s not as difficult now that we’ve been through it for a year.”
At this point in the season, Fitzsimmons said no one is a rookie, and said he’s hoping the upperclassmen can share their strategies and experience.
“Everyone is a veteran,” he said. “You can’t put a price tag on experience. For our athletes who have competed at the Summit League already, they have some strategies to share, some little things to share that can help someone who is from a small school and not used to this type of competition.”
To prepare for the competition, Fitzsimmons said the team is staying away from playing defense.
“We’re not able to control what everybody else does,” he said. “As much as we’re competing against other schools, our biggest component is ourselves. We have to do what we need to do to be better.”
Until Saturday, runners will concentrate in their team meetings, pay attention to good nutrition, get enough sleep, practice speed work, doing regular runs when needed it and ultimately encourage consistency.
“We’ll have the USD and SDSU rivalry thing going, and that will be really good. Of course, rivalries always make everything much more exciting,” Marquardt said.