MITCHELL, S.D. – With 10 freshmen joining the mix and seven upperclassmen returning to the program, the Dakota Wesleyan University men's and women's cross-country teams look to progress throughout the season, hit their stride and make some noise in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
The seniors that return for the final year include Mckenna Rogers (Saint Michael, Minn.), Tyler Larson (Mitchell, S.D.) and Rex Schlicht (Woonsocket, S.D.). The junior class comprises of Brendan Langbehn (Worthing, S.D.), Devin Rihanek (Plankinton, S.D.), Macey Bohl (Garretson, S.D.) and Savannah Schmidt (Plankinton, S.D.).
On the men's side, Langbehn will look to lead the pack after a breakout sophomore season. He tallied a 25th-place finish at the Dordt College Cross-Country Invite with a time of 28:26.3 minutes. At the conference championships, Langbehn came in 37th in 28:03.9.
On the women's side, Rogers will pace the Tigers in her final season with DWU. She tallied a season-high 11th-place finish at the Dordt College Cross-Country Invite in 20:32.6. She also took 27th at the GPAC Championships with a time of 20:07.4.
"We will definitely look to them for leadership," head cross-country coach Jamen Helton said of his seniors. "This year's roster is underclassmen heavy and there will be a definite need for the upperclassman experience not only on race day but with the day-to-day life of being a college athlete."
Returning for their second season with the Tigers are Delanie Larson (Gettysburg, S.D.) and Layne Lewis (Plankinton, S.D.). Entering their first season with DWU contains Baylee Field (Fremont, Neb.), Patience Nesheim (Parkston, S.D.), Ashley Pruss (Tea, S.D.), Samantha Shoultz (Huron, S.D.), Annika Vermeulen (Mitchell, S.D.), Wyatt Baldouf (Seneca, Ill.), Zachariah Fieber (Goodwin, S.D.), Spens Schlicht (Woonsocket, S.D.) and Justin Sorensen (Vermillion, S.D.).
New faces to keep an eye out for include Shoultz and Vermeulen on the women's side, and Baldouf and Sorensen on the men's side.
Shoultz recorded her best time in the 5K in 20:14, while her best mark in the 800-meter run was 2:22. Vermeulen notched a personal best time of 21:07 in the 5K and 6:09 in the 1,600-meter run. She was named team captain and team hustler in 2017 and 2018. Baldouf looks to pace the Tigers in his first year after finishing the 3,200-meter run with a personal best of 10:35 and the 1,600-meter run in 4:50. Sorensen clocked his best time in the 800-meter run in 2:02, while his best mark in the 3,200-meter run was 10:17.
"The Freshman are going to be thrown into the fire a bit," Helton stated. "Many of them will make an immediate impact and have a say on how our team fairs this season. They are a talented group and will continue to improve throughout the year. College running is a different animal than high school and it will take some time to adjust. However, I do think they are taking to the training well and I'm excited to see their progression."
The season begins tomorrow for both the men and women teams as they will compete in the Augustana Twilight in Sioux Falls, S.D. Both teams will travel to Chicago to partake in the Loyola University Invite on Saturday, Sept. 28, while the season concludes on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the GPAC Championships in Sioux City, Iowa.
"I think my biggest goal for the team is to just continue to grow and improve," Helton mentioned. "Moving into my second year at DWU the adjustment period will be shorter for the upperclassmen, however with 10 freshmen it will still take some time before everyone is ready. This season will be about the progression, we had a great year of development last season so I'm looking to build off of that work."