Answer these two questions. Name one team at USD that ranks better than every member of the Big East?
How about a team that ranks better than Alabama and Notre Dame?
If you said women’s track and field for both, you would be correct. The USD women are ranked 31st in the latest the U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Computer Rankings, are the fifth-best team in the nation in a non-BCS conference, and is by far the class of the Summit League on a national scale.
Four members of the USD women’s team and one USD men’s team member competed at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships beginning on Wednesday, June 5. Freshman thrower Meghan Dennis, junior pole vaulter Bethany Buell, sophomore pole vaulter Emily Grove and junior high jumper Megan Glisar all qualified on the women’s side, while junior thrower Cody Snyder represents the first USD men’s athlete to qualify for the D-I Championships since the transition.
“The opportunity for all of them to go to Eugene and be All-Americans would be a really big step for our program,” said women’s head coach Lucky Huber. “When we began this journey, a lot of people said we wouldn’t be able to do these things. It just goes to show how far our program has grown.”
Combining both men’s and women’s teams, South Dakota makes up five of the eight athletes from the Summit League at the championships. North Dakota State will send two and Kansas City added the last one.
The South Dakota women are tops in the league on the national scale. According to the USTFCCCA rankings, which bases its rankings on a projection of points based on times and marks, USD is 48 spots better than the next best Summit League program, which is Kansas City in 79th. North Dakota State’s women are ranked 98th.
Also in those aforementioned USTFCCCA rankings, the USD women rank 31st out of the 143 programs that are ranked, and are ahead of Wisconsin (32nd), Notre Dame (33rd), Oklahoma (34th), Alabama (37th) and Missouri (38th). Breaking down by conferences, the USD women are better than 10 programs in the ACC, seven in the Big 10, seven in the Missouri Valley and all of the Big East. They are the fifth-best program not in a power conference in just their fourth season as a Division I program.
“The transition to D-I has always been about doing better,” said Huber. “I think with the support of the University we have been able to raise the standards of our track program and we are starting to see the benefits.”
The Coyote women will look to improve on their best D-I national finish of 34th set a year ago, while any points by Snyder would give the men’s team its first points at the D-I Championships since the transition.
Meghan Dennis – Freshman – Javelin
Dennis, who rounded out USD’s women’s qualifiers by finishing 10th in the javelin Saturday, started the Coyotes’ championship week by competing in her first NCAA Championship on Wednesday. She threw a school and state record 159-3 at the West Region Preliminary Round, breaking the previous records of 157-10 she set at the Summit League Outdoor Championships on May 10.
Dennis enters with the 17th-best mark set at the regional meets, and the 17th-best mark this season out of the final 24 athletes.
Huber’s take on Dennis: “Meghan is on a roll, every time she goes into a championship experience she’s expecting to throw big and have a good mark.”
Bethany Buell and Emily Grove – Junior and sophomore – Pole vault
Friday will bring about the women’s pole vault, which will feature Buell and Grove. Both cleared 13 feet, 5½ inches to make the championship meet.
Championship week has been a familiar experience for Buell, who has made the outdoor championships three times and the indoor championships twice. She ranks first in the nation this season at 14 feet, 7½ inches. She also finished third at the outdoor championships a year ago and sixth at the indoor championships this past March.
It’s also becoming a familiar spot for Grove, who will compete in her second outdoor championships. She’s tied for the 10th-best mark of the final 24 competitors (14-0) and finished seventh at the championships a year ago.
Huber’s take on Buell and Grove: “Bethany and Emily have both been to Eugene before, not only for the NCAA Championships, but for the Olympic Trials also. I think there’s a huge advantage for the good experiences they’ve had in Eugene.”
Cody Snyder – Junior – Discus
Cody Snyder finished seventh in the discus at the preliminary round with a school and state record throw of 187-0 to make his first NCAA Championship appearance. He held the previous record of 184-6 that he set at the Dakota Duals.
Snyder has finished in the top-10 in every meet that he has had a mark in this season and won his second straight Summit League title on May 10. He had the 12th-best throw of the final 24 in the preliminaries.
Men’s head coach Dave Gottsleben’s take on Snyder: “He’s a special young man who is just scratching the surface. His dedication to the discus is phenomenal. He and his dad have had thousands of throws, even practicing in the snow. I think it’s cool he has a chance to be an All-American, and I think Cody will have a post-collegiate career after he’s done here.”
Megan Glisar – Junior – High jump
Glisar, who will compete in her first NCAA Championship on Saturday in the high jump, transferred in from Morningside College where she won the NAIA Indoor Championships and placed second at the outdoors championships last season.
Glisar enters the championships after clearing 5-10 ½ at the West Region Preliminaries. She is tied for the ninth-best mark of out of the remaining 24 athletes at 6-0.
Huber’s take on Glisar: “Megan’s had a lot of experiences being at the NAIA National Meets and competing at that level, so I think that brings a lot of confidence. There’s a lot of experience that will carry over from that.”