BY JEREMY HOECK
It may sound odd, but there has always seemed to be a connection between Caitlin Duffy and the University of South Dakota.
The 5-foot-11 guard from Rapid City was recruited by USD out of high school, but she ultimately chose to attend Colorado State University — following former Coyote head coach Ryun Williams, who left for CSU in the summer of 2012.
And so when word came out last Friday afternoon that Duffy would be leaving Fort Collins for Vermillion, I wasn’t exactly surprised.
Somehow it just made sense.
And that was even before talking to Caitlin on the phone later Friday evening. You can read my story here.
In talking (at length; she’s a very well-spoken athlete) about transferring to USD, Duffy kept going back to the whole idea of looking for a “better fit.”
“It wasn’t even really all about basketball, it’s more just an overall fit. It’s hard to describe,” she told me. “I felt like for me, for the next three years, that USD is a better fit.”
We joked about proximity not really improving for her, personally. Fort Collins is about five hours away from her home in Rapid City, and it’s about the same distance from Rapid City to Vermillion.
Still, she said when she visited the USD campus two weekends ago, “it just felt like home to me.”
There was something about being back in South Dakota, albeit all the way across the state, that made her feel comfortable, Duffy said.
“Just being around the people and all the coaches and the girls, it made me feel like this was an easy decision.”
And certainly a welcome one at USD, which hasn’t officially announced Duffy’s signing.
Duffy came off the bench to play in all but one game this past season for the Rams, averaging 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds to earn Mountain West Conference Sixth Player of the Year honors.
Keeping that in mind, Duffy’s decision had nothing to do with playing time (duh, she played in pretty much every game) or a relationship with the coaches (she continually lauded Williams and his staff), she said.
You could imagine, though, what USD head coach Amy Williams would say about adding a top reserve from a Mountain West team that won 25 games and reached the WNIT.
Especially because the Coyotes don’t exactly lose a ton from its 2013-14 squad that won the Summit League and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Next season, the Coyotes will return four starters: Nicole Seekamp (Sr.), Raeshel Contreras (Sr.), Lisa Loeffler (Sr.) and Tia Hemiller (Jr.). Duffy will have to redshirt next season as a Division I transfer.
Reserves coming back will include Margaret McCloud (Jr., who I would suspect would jump into a starting role), Kelly Stewart (Jr.), Heidi Hoff (Jr., she could resume her starting role), Taylor Moore (Jr.), Bailey Milne (R-So.), Bridget Arens (So.), Jaylah Jackson (So.), Maddy White (So.), Emily Smith (R-Fr.). I have not heard any changes to the group.
USD will also welcome freshman Kate Liveringhouse, a 6-foot-1 post from Bellevue West (Neb.).
If you go a year beyond that, when Duffy would become eligible as a junior, the Coyote backcourt could look something like this — Hemiller (Sr.), Duffy (Jr.) and Allison Arens (Fr., Crofton, Neb., a verbal commit).
And then you’d still have McCloud (Sr.), Hoff (Sr.) and Bridget Arens (Jr.), plus Megan Bonar, a 6-foot-1 freshman post from De Soto, Kan., who previously verbally committed.
When I asked Duffy about the idea of having to sit out next season as a redshirt, she turned it around and pointed out the positives.
“There will be times next year where it’ll be really hard, definitely, but I’m pretty anxious to have a year to adjust to a new school and a new system,” she said. “You get a year to grow as a player.”
That, to me, stood out as a pretty mature thing to say.
It reminded me of the situation, in some ways, with Seekamp, who came to USD as a freshman out of Australia. She had to redshirt her first season with the Coyote program, but quickly jumped into a key role — with still a full season left in Vermillion.
The Coyote coaching staff at the time continually pointed out that Seekamp was “tearing up” practice, and that they couldn’t wait to get her on the floor. It’ll likely be the same thing with Duffy; you’ll have a legitimate weapon testing your kids in practices and scrimmages, but still a year away from taking the floor.
Time will tell how Duffy will pan out in the Summit League, but she’s certainly a huge addition to a program already riding a pretty big high.
If you have been struggling to find spring sports photos from the Press & Dakotan on Spotted, there is a good chance they are now there. I went back and filled in the blanks from the last few weeks. (Mostly photos I took, so I apologize for that.)
Here are the spring sports galleries so far, listed by sport.
Archery — April 13-14: First Dakota Classic
Baseball — March 26: Dakota State at MMC; March 30: Brookings at YHS; April 5: Doane at MMC; April 5: Brookings at YHS; April 6: Watertown at YHS; April 9: Dakota State at MMC; April 12: Hastings at MMC; April 15: Dordt at MMC; April 17: Northwestern at MMC
Basketball — March 28-29: 24th Annual Roger Haas Tourn.
There will be plenty more photos in the coming weeks. Hopefully I will do a better job of staying on top of them. Thank you for your patience.
BY CHRIS RILEY
BY CHRIS RILEY
Now that the calendar has reached mid-April, one quarter of 2014 is gone, just like many of the resolutions and goals set months ago for the New Year. But for one Yankton native, his lofty goal of running a marathon fast enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials is just entering its first test phase.
Matt Dewald will toe the starting line of the Boston Marathon on Monday lining up next to some of the fastest runners that the world has to offer as he earned his way into the elite men’s starting wave. Over the course of the 26.2 miles, the former Yankton High School and University of South Dakota standout hopes to build on a phenomenal eight month stretch of running that began one year ago.
Dewald, 31 and now a resident of Denver where he is a physical therapist, had run 14 marathons prior to 2013, winning both the Monumental Marathon Challenge (Black Hills) in 2007 and the 2009 Lincoln (Neb.) National Guard Marathon. But it was at last April’s Boston Marathon where Dewald found that he could compete with America’s elite distance talent, clocking a sub-2:20 time and crossing the finish line as the ninth American and 20th competitor overall (out of more than 17,000 finishers before the race was cut short due to the bombings).
“Boston had to be one of my biggest breakthroughs,” Dewald said. “I have since run faster twice, but to break the 2:20 barrier is a big one.”
Before Boston, Dewald’s personal record was 2:22:06. To shave two and a half minutes off of that time in a single race, which happened to be on the notoriously difficult Boston course, showed how much effort Matt put into his Boston debut.
“I have to make sacrifices to make the training work,” Dewald added. “But when you have a day like I did in Boston last year, you don’t second guess all those 4:30 am morning runs before work and all those nights that you choose to go to bed early to make sure you were well rested for the next morning’s long run.”
Despite his personal record-setting race in Boston, Dewald was just warming up for what he would accomplish in 2013. Two months after Boston, Dewald bested his time by nearly two minutes at Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon, finishing 16th out of 5,600 runners in 2:17:42. Even more impressive was the fact that this time was under the Olympic Trials “B” qualifying standard of 2:18 and ranks fifth fastest ever marathon by a South Dakota native (and the fastest overall since 2002).
Unfortunately for Dewald, the 2016 Olympic Trials qualifying window did not open until August 1, so his sub-2:18 came six weeks too soon to qualify.
“I am not officially qualified yet but I know I will do so very soon,” Dewald said. “I have proven that I am at that level, and will just have to do it again, now that the qualifying window has opened up.”
Last October brought Dewald to the Chicago Marathon for his first official chance at hitting the 2:18 standard, but he just missed that, running an almost identical time to his Boston race six months previously, 2:19:30. That was good enough to place Matt 26th out of over 39,000 runners.
A final 2013 race for Dewald was the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December, but nagging injuries set in and limited him to a 15th place finish in 2:22:39.
Still, three sub-2:20 marathons in six months and a fourth effort under 2:23 two months later capped off a remarkable 2013 year of racing that could not be matched by anyone but the most talented elite runners in the nation.
One person not surprised by his success is Dewald’s former high school coach and current USD cross country head coach Dan Fitzsimmons.
“You would be hard pressed to find too many people who work harder than Matt,” Fitzsimmons said. “Add in his tremendous love and passion for the sport and you have a very dynamic and intrinsically motivated young man who also happens to be a student of his craft as well. Success is written all over him! It is very gratifying as a coach to see someone as unselfish and compassionate as Matt finally reach the elite level.”
Reaching the elite level in the marathon was something Dewald has gravitated to since he finished his college running career at the University of South Dakota in 2005.
“Coming out of college I knew I wanted to run the marathon,” Dewald said. “I ran my first one about six weeks after I completed my last college race. I figured I would do well in the marathon because I have always trained hard, and did not shy away from long runs and high weekly mileage.”
Adapting to the high mileage training required for the marathon – Dewald logs weeks in excess of 130 miles – has cost him some of his speed for shorter distances, Matt said that lost speed might be negated by his improved aerobic capacity. That is something he would like to work on if he can nail down his Olympic Trials qualifying time.
“Once I accomplish that (a qualifying time) I would like to step down in distance for a year and try to get faster,” Dewald added. “That should help me be more competitive in the big races (New York, Chicago etc.).”
For now, Dewald looks to run at least 2:18 to get qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials which were awarded to the city of Los Angeles back in December. If he can run under 2:15, then he would also receive funding support from USA Track & Field.
Matt credits his former coaches including Fitzsimmons, Dave Gottsleben, and Matt Hoyt along with some world renowned coaches such as Brad Hudson and Jack Daniels for guiding his training.
“I have learned that there is never any one perfect formula,” Dewald said. “There are no secret workouts, or weekly mileage totals to hit. The key is consistent well rounded training.”
In addition to the confidence boost that running the three fastest races of his life in a six month stretch provided, Dewald’s stellar year also earned him a small endorsement deal with Brooks Running.
“My Brooks sponsorship is more about pride and will help me mentally more than anything,” Dewald added. “It justifies all the hard work and time that I have put into the sport. I am sure there will be other perks that come with it, such as special treatment at races and bonuses, but the main thing it gives me is confidence, knowing that I have such a great company in the running world wanting to put their name on me is a huge confidence boaster.”
Even if Monday does not go as hoped, Dewald has proved that he can run multiple fast races in a short span of time. Even more importantly, he now has the confidence that he can run with some of the best distance runners that the United States has to offer, even while holding down a full time job.
His first coach sums up why Dewald’s accomplishments and future goals are so special.
“Every coach tries to convey to their athletes that you get out of it (running) what you put into it, but for many years, I felt Matt put way more into it than he was getting out of it which was very frustrating for both he as the athlete and for me as his former coach,” Fitzsimmons said. “Matt’s persistent and perseverance are an inspiration and rallying cry to all of us to never give up hope and always give it your best.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
It’s been two years since Huron senior Justin Decker committed to play basketball at the University of South Dakota.
First it was to play for head coach Dave Boots. Then it was to play for interim head coach Joey James. Now it’ll be for Craig Smith.
Decker, who will be announced as a first team Class AA all-state post Thursday, maintained Wednesday that yes, he is still committed to coming to USD this fall — he signed his letter of intent last fall. Now it’s just a matter of getting used to a new system under Smith, who was hired two weeks ago.
“I think it’ll be good for the university. He’s coming from a pretty good program, so I’m sure he’ll know what he’s talking about,” Decker said Wednesday.
Decker has yet to talk personally with Smith, but said he hopes to “pretty soon.” The original plan under former coach James was for Decker to come to Vermillion for the summer to work out with the program, he said.
That will be one thing Decker will discuss with Smith, he said.
“Just from what I hear, he likes full court presses, and he’s a run and gun guy,” Decker said. “That’ll be a little different, but I think I’ll be able to adjust.”
Like everyone else, Decker watched North Dakota State’s men win the Summit League crown this year and win a game in the NCAA Tournament. It proves that such a feat is possible at USD, he said.
“It’d be really fun to win the Summit and play in the tournament,” Decker said. “When I was younger, I never really thought much about it. Now that it’s possible, it’d be a fun experience.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at http://www.yankton.net.