USD men's outdoor track and field team may be 'greatest ever' in South Dakota When people talk about South Dakota's greatest ever track and field teams, it will be hard not to place The University of South Dakota 2000 men's outdoor team at the top.
"First of all, these are great student-athletes," he said. "Secondly, they are tremendously motivated. They stepped it up at the right time. I don't know if many can appreciate what they accomplished. This group set school and state records, won a conference championship with more points than any South Dakota team has scored, and competed with athletes from more than 300 schools nationally. It is the highest finish ever by an NCC team � that makes it quite an accomplishment."
Clearly 2000 has been a milestone-reaching year for the Coyotes, the only NCC men's team to finish in the top 10 at the NCAA track championships. Nine of the 11 Coyote athletes scored at the NCAA Division II championships, including senior Matt Hoyt of Basin, WY, who alone had 19 points. This is a team that set four new state of South Dakota track records: 10,000-meter run, shot put, and 4×200 and 4×100 relays.
Hoyt surely will go down as one of the greatest ever runners in NCC and Coyote track and field history. The day before nationals began, Hoyt was named the NCAA Division II Male Athlete of the Year for Outdoor Track, an honor that complimented the NCAA Division II Male Athlete of the Year honor he received in cross-country in 1998.
Though quiet and unassuming, Hoyt, who set the state record in the 10,000-meter run this spring in 29:24.50, exhibited why he is highly regarded nationally. Hoyt not only automatically qualified, but also placed in the top four in the 10,000 meter run, 5,000-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Each of those events is grueling in itself, but to place in the top four in all three events is a rare triple that has never before been accomplished by an athlete from South Dakota or the NCC. And to do it under hot and humid conditions is a special effort for an athlete from the Midwest who trains mostly in cooler and less humid conditions.
After Hoyt's 10,000-meter run on Thursday night (May 25), Gottsleben was unsure whether he could continue. But if this team needed someone to step forward, Hoyt took it upon himself to do just that. Not only did he run the next day in the steeplechase, but he also recorded a school record time � 9:00.56 � in just the fifth time he had competed in the event. Then on Saturday, he took third in the 5,000-meter run, culminating a three-day performance, which garnered Hoyt three more all-American honors. He has eight in his career.
Hoyt's resiliency is the type of leadership and character that has epitomized members of this team this spring. It was also a first leg in this team's relay to a top placing at the championships. "Time and time again, this team showed how much heart they have," Gottsleben said.
Stepping forward quickly has been an attribute of junior sprinter Tom Green of Hornick, IA. He was outstanding at the NCAA championships, where he was second in the 100 meters (10.41) and third in the 200-meters (21.16). He now holds USD school records in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. He also anchored the 4×100-meter relay team that set a new record in the prelims at the NCAA championship (40.97) before finishing eighth in the finals. Green and team members Ryan Finley and Pat Belling of Omaha, NE, and Aaron Dykstra of Yankton earned All-American status.
Adding to the men's outstanding performance was indoor 800-meter champion Andrew Neugebauer of Dimock, who was third in the men's 800-meter run (1:50.05) at the NCAA championships, while Steve Schmidt of White River finished fifth with a throw of 56'4.75". Schmidt set the all-time state of South Dakota mark in the shot put with a throw of 58'9.25" this spring. In addition, Garrett Schramm, a senior from Utica finished fifth in the pole vault competition with a vault of 15'7".
Others competing in the nationals were Josh Hofer of Freeman, who was ninth in the 110-meter hurdles; and Jason Probasco of Woodbine, IA, who finished 11th in the 10,000-meter run. Also qualifying for the nationals was the 4×400-meter relay team of Eric VanLaecken of Parkston, Finley, Belling and Neugebauer, but the team failed to qualify for the finals.
"This is a team that performed at the top of its game. I don't know if we will ever see a team like this again," said Gottsleben, who was named NCC Coach of the Year for the outdoor season. "They were a group that reached beyond all our expectations. When people debate and argue about great teams, I hope they never forget this group of athletes from South Dakota. In so many ways, they have gone above and beyond what anyone could expect," he said.