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.
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.