VERMILLION, S.D. – 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 will compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships next week starting Wednesday. 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.
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.”