BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – As he discussed the previous day’s championship, Dave Gottsleben paused and said, “We’re rolling right now.”
The veteran men’s track coach at the University of South Dakota has a point.
His program captured its third consecutive Summit League indoor title, beating North Dakota State by 49.5 points on Saturday in Fargo. The 222 points scored by the Coyote men wasn’t the most they’ve scored in their string of titles, but it was certainly more than Gottsleben estimated.
“We performed better than I think a lot of us thought we could,” he said Sunday. “We were very excited. It was a phenomenal performance by our kids.”
And it’s been the same story for a while now.
Including the indoor and outdoor meets, the USD men have won three straight Summit League titles, and four of the last five – the one exception was a second-place finish in the 2013 outdoor meet in Fargo.
Since joining the Division I ranks in 2009, the Coyote men’s program has finished first or second in 12 of the 13 conference meets, including USD’s 3-year stay in the Great West Conference.
One of the main catalysts for the string of three indoor titles in a row may very well center on the 2013 indoor meet in Vermillion, Gottsleben said. There was understandably a sense of comfort, and from there, that confidence resulted in USD winning the 2014 indoor title out in Fort Wayne, Indiana – and then Saturday in Fargo.
“I have great respect for North Dakota State track program, it’s always been phenomenal,” Gottsleben said. “We’ve been fortunate to hang in there with them.”
In all over the weekend, the Coyotes had the top time or mark in eight of the 17 events. Highlighting that effort was junior Teivaskie Lewin and sophomore Mach Dojiok, who each won two events.
Lewin, a junior college transfer, easily won the 60-meter hurdles and later won the 200-meter dash. He was honored as the Track Championship MVP.
“There was no one like him at the meet this weekend,” said Gottsleben, who was again named Coach of the Year. “He’s certainly a big-time Division I athlete.”
Lewin is also in contention for a spot in the D-I National Indoor Meet, which takes the top 16 athletes in each event. As of Sunday evening, Lewin was sitting in a tie for 15th nationally in the 60-meter hurdles with his clocking of 7.79.
Dojiok, also a cross country runner for the Coyotes, won the mile run and later took first place in the 800-meter run.
Also winning individual events for USD were Kyle McKelvey in the shot put (breaking teammate Cody Snyder’s school record from a week ago), Gawain Williams in the 60-meter dash (and was named Newcomer of the Championship), Tyler Frank in the high jump and Jeff O’Connell in the long jump (he was named Field Championship MVP).
On the women’s side, the Coyotes finished second at the indoor meet with 180.5 points, well behind champion North Dakota State (231).
The USD women won one event, by freshman Sierra Maddox in the pole vault, but the Coyotes went 1-2-3-5-7-8 in the event. Freshman Shanice Cannigan earned Newcomer of the Championship honors after a trio of second-place finishes, in the pentathlon, in the 60-meter hurdles and as part of the runner-up 1600-meter relay.
Both Coyote teams will now turn their attention to the outdoor season, which begins March 20 with a pair of meets and will conclude May 13-15 with the Summit League meet in Macomb, Illinois.
“If you haven’t been to a conference meet at our level, it’s very exciting,” Gottsleben said. “Everyone’s in a small, enclosed space, and the noise factor is really big.
“It’s really exciting, and our kids have made it even more exciting.”