With the addition of one of the biggest recruitment classes to date, the Coyotes look to defend several individual titles and send as many athletes as possible to the NCAA tournaments as they start the indoor track and field season.
They kicked the season off in Iowa on Jan. 13 where the team had several top five finishes and five first place finishes. Lucky Huber, head coach of women’s track and field, said the meet was a good starting point.
“After Christmas it’s kind of a testing ground to see where people are at,” Huber said.
Experienced Coyotes return
Last season, the Coyotes sent pole vaulters Emily Grove and Chris Nilsen and shot putter Danielle Waldner to the outdoor NCAA championships.
Nilsen and jumper Samara Spencer made their debuts at the indoor NCAA championships, where Nilsen claimed the national title.
This season Nilsen and Spencer return as experienced sophomores, while both Grove and Waldner, now USD graduates, join the coaching staff as volunteers.
Junior thrower Ben Hammer returns for his second season with the Coyotes. This year he said he’s focused on improving his distances and helping his teammates improve.
“Track’s really statistically driven,” he said. “I feel like it’s cool to notice some of the things that aren’t statistical, like goals as far as helping others improve.”
Hammer placed sixth in shot put at the indoor Summit League Championships with a throw of 53 feet 3 ¾ inches. He also won the discus event at Howard Wood Dakota Relays with a toss of 174 feet 6 inches.
Senior Jay Cooper begins his final season with the Coyotes. Last season, he claimed Summit League victories as a hurdler in the 100, and 400 meter distances.
Cooper said he wants to end his college career on a high note.
“We have a lot more talent (this season),” he said. “We can really have a chance to win, and this is my last season, so I’d love to have a team win.”
Huber said he’s expecting a good season.
“We’d like to get a few kids to the NCAA National Championship first, that’s one of our goals,” he said. “And we feel like we have some athletes that can do that this year.”
The Coyotes have a full schedule ahead of them. They face many highly competitive teams, such as University of Minnesota and University of Texas.
“We go to enough of those meets and see those other schools there that it’s really common place for us to be on the track with Big 10 schools, Big 12 schools,” Huber said. “So I don’t think our kids see it as a threat, I think they see it more as just another opportunity for them to go out and compete.”
With a team of over 100 athletes, the Coyotes are in a good position for victories, Huber said.
“One thing that’s unique about our team is we’re well rounded. We got strong distance, strong jumpers, strong throwers,” Huber said. “So it’s something we really try to pride ourselves on.”
With such a large team, Ireland is hoping to close out her collegiate career with a conference title win.
“We are so close, especially for the women,” she said. “That’s been a goal for my coach since I came to college.”