Women’s team places seventh at nationals

Women's team places seventh at nationals The University of South Dakota women's track and field team placed seventh in the nation as a result of several outstanding performances at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships in Boston, MA, on Saturday, March 10.

South Dakota women's team, which had two student-athletes crowned individual champions, finished with 30 points, just 1 point out of sixth place. The USD men finished in 25th place.

Sara Deckert, named the Most Outstanding Performer at the North Central Conference meet, ran a personal best and set a school record by racing to the 400-meter title in 54.65. She broke the USD 400-meters record of former Coyote Stephanie Knight, who had a 54.88 in 1998. Sandy Pelkofer, who finished sixth at the indoor nationals a year ago, won the pole vault competition by winning a jump-off against Jennifer Swanson of UC-Davis. Both vaulters went 12'03.50". That mark was a personal best and a new South Dakota record for Pelkofer, who had gone 12'0" earlier this year.

The national titles in the 400-meters and pole vault are the first in those events in Coyote history. It is also the first time that two South Dakota women's student-athletes won national titles in the same year. The last national champion for the South Dakota women's program was Elena Swan, who won the long jump and triple jump in 1998.

Tonya Kneifl, who was third a year ago, took second place in the high jump as she went 5'7.75". She also finished ninth in the 55-meter hurdles in a personal best of 8.23 and 10th in the long jump (18'01"). Molly Wedel, running with a broken bone in her foot, finished seventh in the 5,000 meters. Wedel had a time of 17:12.99 in the 5,000 meters. All four athletes earned all-American honors.

The two individual titles gives South Dakota seven total national champions. Jen Feely finished 12th in the 5,000-meters (18:19.96).

"It was a great performance," said women's head track and field coach Lucky Huber. "Sara (Deckert), Sandy (Pelkofer), and Tonya Kneifl just had outstanding efforts. Molly Wedel gave a gutsy performance in the 5,000 meters."

The top 10 teams included: St. Augustine 63; Abilene Christian, 48; North Dakota State, 38.5; California-Davis and California State-Los Angeles, 33; Lewis, 31; South Dakota, 30; Morningside, 20; Western State, 19.5; and Massachusetts-Lowell, 15.5.

The highlight for the South Dakota men's team was the fifth place finish by Dean Gillen, who threw a school record and personal best of 61'00.75" in the 35-pound weight throw on Friday, March 9. The 4×400 meter relay team finished eighth in the competition on Saturday, March 10 in 3:16.92. The team included Pat Belling, Eric VanLaecken, John Kehoe and Ryan Finley. Chad Rohde finished 12th in the triple jump (45'11. 75") on Saturday afternoon, March 10.

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