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  • Writer's pictureMichael Dunlap

Blue wave crests - SDSU cross-country 1975

Before Beards joined our team in 1978, we had quite a bit of success over the years. SDSU cross-country had a great tradition of outstanding teams/runners. 1975 was what you would call a "re-building" year. We had four freshman on the varsity squad, Mike and Mark Bills, Mark Hillstrom and myself. One sophomore, Randy Fischer, one junior Jeff Herman and one senior Pat Tobin. Coach Jay Dirksen trained us hard. Every weekday morning started with a 5 mile run. Afternoon work outs varied between- a) six repeats up "killer hill" (1/2 mile hill on a farm path made up of loose dirt) =17 miles. b) One mile, three mile and 6 mile time trials weekly. c) races every Saturday. And d) a 20 mile run every Sunday. Consistent 100 mile weeks. This was tough stuff. But we loved it. Yes, we didn't always have the freshest legs at many of the meets we ran in (USD duel lost by 1 point), but by the end of the season we rose to the challenge of winning the North Central Conference meet. This is the photo of our winning team after the NCC meet. The two biggest smiles are on Coach Dirksen's and my face. We had just punched our tickets to compete in the Division II National cross country meet in Irvine, CA. We were going to Disneyland!!

Sidenote. Jeff Herman was an outstanding runner from Madison, SD. That's him in the back row second from right. After my freshman year he went to Coach Dirksen and told him to give me an athletic scholarship for my dorm room, as Jeff was on scholarship and was not planning to use the dorm anymore and felt that I should get his room scholarship. So, I was on partial athletic scholarship for the rest of my time at SDSU. Thanks to Jeff and Coach Dirksen for believing in me.

Back row, left to right - Coach Jay Dirksen, Mark Bills, Jeff Herman, Mark Hillstrom. Front row kneeling - Mike Bills, Randy Fischer, Pat Tobin and me

Second photo is our whole 1975 CC team including Mac Butler (back row - far right) - graduate assistant. Mac was an outstanding track athlete in HS and college. After completing his Master Degree at SDSU he was named head cross-country/track coach at Roosevelt HS, that had just opened in Sioux Falls, SD. Tragically, he was killed in a motor vehicle accident shortly before the school year began. A great loss for everyone who knew him.

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