Some universities are blessed to have a strong men’s cross country team, while others are equally ecstatic about having a respectable women’s cross country team. Only a handful can say they have both.
And at 6 p.m. Friday night South Dakota proved they’re in that handful.
The women came out and swept the field, crushing conference foes while having 6 runners in the top 15, and others not far behind.
The women were led once again by Amber Eichkorn. The senior stand-out last raced at the 2015 NCAA Track and Field Championships, and the poise she garnered from racing on one of the biggest stages in collegiate athletics was on clear display Friday. She stomped in with only 13:58 on the clock, gapping the rest of the field by an entire 10 seconds.
Right behind her was teammate and fellow senior Katie Wetzstein coming in second place, followed with a clean seventh place finish from senior Kelsey Barrett, who barely escaped a battle in the shoot for eighth place.
And as much as Emma Kusch Dahle of North Dakota State wanted it, USD first-year Megan Billington found that extra boost of energy when she needed it most, sliding through the shoot at 14:52, four seconds ahead of Dahle.
Next up, it was the Coyote men’s turn. Running a nice unadulterated 6,000 meters. The gun went off, and a herd of wild animals started their journey.
6,000 meters, 18 minutes and 43 seconds later South Dakota senior Mubarak Musa rolled in ahead of 2013 Summit League Champion, South Dakota State’s Trent Lusignan, for the win.
A short while later sophomore Aaron Breyer entered the shoot in sixth place.
It may only be the first race, but both the men and the women have sent a clear message to the rest of the conference. They’ve each established themselves as clear front runners in the conference but how they stack up in the nation is yet to be seen.
On Sept. 28, South Dakota races at Roy Griak in Minneapolis, one of the biggest cross country invites in the country. The race could be the best predictor for how South Dakota will stack up to the rest of the nation at regionals to end the season.
If this weekend was any indicator, Coyote fans should be expecting big things.