SIOUX FALLS — South Dakota was picked to finished second in the Summit League women’s cross country preseason poll and the men’s cross country team was selected third. Junior Abby Ripperda was named to the women’s runners to watch list, while sophomore Merga Gemeda was recognized on the men’s side.
With the Coyotes’ top-two runners lost to graduation from last year’s Summit League Championship team, South Dakota’s women will look to reload again with new talent. South Dakota’s streak of five-straight league titles is the sixth-longest active streak in the country.
Ripperda enters the fall after a breakout spring campaign where she earned all-Summit League honors in the 10,000 meters and placed fifth in the 5,000 meters at the Summit League Championships. Ripperda, who dropped a personal best 16:49.83 in the 5,000 meters less than 48 hours after racing the 10,000, will look to make her debut on the Coyotes’ Summit League Cross Country Championship roster.
The South Dakota women return a pair of 2018 all-Summit second team runners in junior Jonna Bart and senior Kianna Stewart. Bart finished 10th a year ago with Stewart just behind in 14th. Junior Kelsi Kearney took 16th last fall, narrowly missing out on league honors. Nine freshmen will make their debut in a Coyote uniform this fall.
The Coyote men lost 2018 Summit League individual champion Eldon Warner to graduation, but bring on five freshmen to the 11-man roster.
Gemeda, who earned a spot on the all-Summit League second team as a true freshman, will lead the pack. Gemeda took 10th at the league meet with a clocking of 25:53.54 last fall.
South Dakota opens the season at the NDSU Bison Open on Aug. 30.