The morning will start at 6 a.m. with a morning run around campus followed by breakfast before the University of South Dakota cross country team competes in this season’s only home meet.
Head coach Dan Fitzsimmons said the home-field advantage plays a key role for team preparation for the South Dakota Tim Young Invitational Saturday, Oct. 15.
“For our athletes, it’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s like any other athletic team on campus; when you’re at home, it’s your home terrain, you get to sleep in your bed, it’s your schedule. The only thing you have to focus on is performing well.”
Junior Sigornie Pfefferle said the meet is an important part of the season because it’s the only home meet.
“Unlike football or basketball, we only have this one home meet,” she said. “So it’s nice to finally be at home to have your local fans, your classmates and your family and kids from the track team come and be there to support you. And actually have some fans that you know instead of just random people yelling at you.”
For senior Kelsey Robish, running at home brings several advantages.
“You know the course a lot better,” she said. “We practice on this course twice a week. We’re running the course; we know the nooks and crannies.”
The invitational, named for a USD alum and cross-country team supporter Tim Young, will host North Dakota, North Dakota State, University of Nebraska Omaha and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The meet is held on the Don Baker cross-country course, a course Fitzsimmons said is one of the most precise in the country.
“It’s permanently marked and extremely accurate, so where we go to some places and it’s roughly 5,000 meters, we know our course is 5,000 meters, so it does give us a more measurable standard to compete against,” he said.
The meet is the final regular-season competition before the Summit League championships in Tulsa, Okla., and a chance for athletes to tune-up and impress the coaches, Fitzsimons said.
“You’ll see that for most of the squads that are running,” he said. “Their athletes are probably a little more focused on that than necessarily the team aspect of it for this meet.”
While the home-field advantages are important in the meet, Robish said pressure is always a factor.
“When the season started in September and late August, we were already talking about our only home meet and looking at our times,” she said. “There’s just a really big build up, and with that build up, there’s that pressure that you need to perform well.”
Fitzsimmons said the program has been looking for a permanent annual date for the meet in hopes of drawing more competition.
“Certainly we’d love to have some more Division-I schools here and we think that can happen if we can find a day that works for everyone,” he said. “So if we have a good, quality meet with some nice weather, maybe some others will think about coming in
The university is one of only a few schools in the country to have their own permanent cross country course, a fact Fitzsimmons said makes the invitational popular.
“We’ve hosted some NCAA Division II regional meets here,” he said. “Adams State, which is always a contender for the Division II National Championship, on their website actually lists this as one of their favorite courses in the country.”
Competition for the invitational starts at 10 a.m. for the women and 10:45 a.m. for the men.