Coyotes surge late to upend NDSU; Mettler, Nielsen, Gottsleben honored
By Jeremy Hoeck
VERMILLION — The home team could have simply ignored the final race and kick-started their celebration early.
They didn’t however. Instead, the University of South Dakota men’s track team gave the home crowd something extra to cheer about Monday afternoon.
Capping off what was a dominant finish to the day’s final five events, the Coyotes went out and won the 1,600-meter relay anyway. The victory padded USD’s lead for the men’s team title at the Summit League Indoor Track & Field Championships — the first Summit title of any kind for USD.
“We knew we already had it won, but that was just the icing on the cake,” said freshman Christian Nielsen, who anchored the winning 1,600 relay and went on to earn Men’s Newcomer honors.
“That really pushed us to do well, knowing we could celebrate.”
The win was extra sweet for USD, which upended conference powerhouse North Dakota State 190 points to 176.5.
“It’s awesome,” Nielsen said. “We just want to keep it rolling, to do this more often. Plus, it’s about time NDSU was removed the throne.”
That the Bison were, thanks to USD’s depth — mostly by South Dakota kids — in the final five events. The Coyotes were down most of Monday, but out-scored the Bison 70-31 between the 200-meter dash, triple jump, shot put, 5,000-meter and 1600 relay.
“There’s such an ebb and flow to a conference meet, and we knew there was going to be a lot of opportunities for us to score near the end,” said USD’s Dave Gottsleben, who was named Men’s Coach of the Year.
“We told our kids, they’ll (NDSU) get ahead because of the multi-events and some of the other early ones, but just keep doing do what we do.”
The biggest boon to the Coyotes was a 1-2 finish in the shot put, with champion Kyle McKelvey of Beresford (58-8 3/4) and Cody Snyder of Andes Central (55-11).
“Me and Cody have been throwing against each other since junior year, so it’s a lot of fun to kind of grow up in this event together,” McKelvey said. “We’ve got two more years together, maybe three, so hopefully we can tear it up.”
The Coyotes also earned a total of 13 points in the 5,000, thanks to senior Jeff Mettler finishing strong to vault from third place to first in the final stretch.
“It was tough, but I knew our team needed that, so I dug as deep as I could to finish that off,” said Mettler, who earned Men’s Track Championship MVP honors.
USD had two other men win individual titles on Monday: Nielsen in the 400-meter dash (49.60, by one-hundreths of a second) and senior Michael Burrus in the 60-meter dash (6.83).
“It takes a pretty good team to score 190 points and an even better one to beat 190 points,” Gottsleben said.
The USD women, meanwhile, closed strong to finish third after being fourth — and at one time, fifth — for most of Monday. North Dakota State won its sixth straight indoor crown with 186 points, and was followed by newcomer Omaha (118) and the Coyotes (114).
Though the Coyote women had only two individual champions on Monday, each was rather significant.
Junior Bethany Buell set a DakotaDome and conference record in the pole vault with a winning jump of 14-feet-5 1/2 and junior transfer Megan Glisar did the same in winning the high jump at 5-feet-11 1/4. Amber Eichkorn was named Women’s Newcomer of the Championship.
Buell’s mark also moved her to fourth in Division I in the pole vault, nearing her ultimate goal of top three at the national indoor meet.
“Relief was the main emotion I had,” she said. “I’ve been waiting this whole season to PR (personal record) again, so to have it come together at the conference meet is awesome.”
Glisar, a transfer from Morningside College, fell short in attempts to break the dome record of 6-feet, but still broke the Summit League record.
“There’s a lot of great jumpers in the league, and it could’ve been anyone’s day,” she said. “I would’ve loved to get that next height and qualify for nationals, but there’s still one more meet left.”
As far as this meet in particular, it was especially sweet given that it was the first for USD since the school left the Great West Conference, Gottsleben said.
“I hope this breaks that barrier for every sport,” he said. “We have great coaches and great administrative support, so hopefully gives all of us confidence that they can do it too.”
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