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Track teams eye repeat of ‘13 success

At the 2013 Summit League Championships, the University of South Dakota men’s track and field team took first place, while the women’s team finished third.

Men’s head coach Dave Gottsleben said the goal for his group is to not only repeat the success seen last year, but to also get better.

“We’re already a better team than last year,” senior thrower Cody Snyder said. “We came in as the defending champions and have a lot more confidence than what we did a year ago.”

The team competed in the Bill Bergan Invitational Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in Ames, Iowa, where the men placed fourth.

Sophomore Teivaskie Lewin placed first in the men’s 60-meter hurdles, while senior Casey Shade placed first in the men’s 1,000-meter run.

The team made its first step to another championship with a third-place finish at the Jack Johnson Invitational in Minneapolis Jan. 24-25. However, the biggest news from that weekend was not the team’s placing, instead the play of senior Jeff Mettler, Gottsleben said.

Mettler ran a 4:06 mile after dealing with numerous injuries throughout the fall.

“To have him back is huge for us,” Gottsleben said. “He struggled through cross country, and to see him back to running a mile like that is pretty impressive.”

Snyder said starting strong so early helps the team in the long run.

“When you are this far out from the conference championship, you have to push yourself extra hard,” Snyder said. “We do that because we’ll be able to back off a little when we’re closer to the championships and feel a little more fresh.”

Women’s head coach Lucky Huber said the Jack Johnson Invitational was a good starting point for the season.

“We had some really good things happen in Minnesota for the men and women,” Huber said. “That was important, because I think we’re raising the bar.”

Of course, there are things to work on, Huber said.

“We still have some kids that need to take the next step and raise up their level,” Huber said. “They know that, and we already have a bunch of kids that are really heading in the right direction.”

The women placed fifth at the Bill Bergan Invite, with junior Emily Grove posting the nation’s top mark in the pole vault, placing first. Senior Megan Glisar won the high jump for the women.

In 2013, the women were ranked No. 18 in the country, but Huber said the goal, like the men, is to always get better.

“Being the 18th best team in the country was great — we’re happy, pat ourselves on the back — but it’s time to turn the page, start over and see how we can get better,” Huber said.

By competing against a Big Ten school like Minnesota, Huber said the Coyotes are showing they want to compete against some of the best teams in the country.

“We set up our season in a couple segments. Right now in our first segment we are being really aggressive in our meets,” Huber said. “In our first three weeks we will have competed against Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State and Wisconsin. That’s some really good competition and really important for our kids.”

Gottsleben said the competition can only help them.

“That’s what we bought into when we moved to Division I,” Gottsleben said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve been successful right away. We’re now looking at big opponents as a good challenge, and as a bring-it-on type thing.

After having three weeks off for winter break, Huber said it’s important to push his runners hard early on to get back into form.

It’s also important to get the first-years acclimated to indoor season, Huber said, where almost all of them have no experience running in an indoor track and taking long bus rides.

Huber said the thing some people don’t realize is a lot of people run slower times in the indoor season simply because they having to run more curves, which can slow a lot of runners down.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Huber said. “Indoor track is really an exciting time.”

Follow reporter Grant Bosiacki on Twitter @gbos2