This Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, the Coyote cross country teams are looking to take on some of the best programs at the Divison I level, including Minnesota, Colorado State, Boise State, Arizona, Southern Utah and Divison II power house Adams State.
The men are coming off a second place finish at the Bison Invite in early September, and this will be their first real test to see where they stack up with the rest of the nation.
The women are coming off a first place finish at the Bison Invite, hoping to continue their string of success dating back to last season with a special performance this Saturday.
“It’s about the small things, warming up, cooling down, stretching. If we can do those, we’ll be in a position to be successful,” said head coach Dan Fitzsimmons.
Having raced at the Bison Invite – a course that virtually has no similarities to the Griak course — the Coyotes will definitely have their hands full.
First of all, Griak is a jungle of hills, testing the mental fortitude and true will of the South Dakota runners.
And not only that, but Griak is a longer course. The Bison Invite was just 4,000 meters for the women and 6,000 meters for the men. Griak will be a full 6,000 meters on the women’s side and 8,000 meters on the mens side, a distance first-year runners have yet to endure.
No doubt this race is going to be different for the Coyotes, but the teams are preparing for it.
“If we run how we run at practice, it’ll be fine. Griak is an unpredictable course. We’ve been there when it’s been raining, cold and warm. There’s no sense in trying to predict the future. We’re just going to run,” Fitzsimmons said. “Sure, the freshmen are running a length that most of them haven’t raced before, but so are all of the other freshmen.”
As for goals, they are minor and seem to mirror the teams’ attitude.
Running is almost entirely a mental sport, so to give themselves any false idealizations wouldn’t necessarily be the best idea, according to the runners. But at the same time, to low ball themselves wouldn’t help either, which is exactly why their goals are simple.
“As for team goals, just running more as a pack would be beneficial,” first-year Nate Wendt said.
Fitzsimmons said to do good in the invitational, gaps have to be closed.
“If we’re able to close the gap between our first, second and third runners, and have our fourth and fifth not far behind, we can be successful,” he said.
Wendt said his personal goals are to improve with every meet.
“I’d just like to run a little bit more consistent. I took it out a bit hard at the last meet, and I’ve learned from that,” Wendt said.
(Staying together as a group, the USD men’s cross country team runs on the Vermillion High School’s track in preparation for Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis. Jacob Lutz / The Volante)