ANDERSON: Back in the sports saddle again

ANDERSON: Back in the sports saddle again

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It seems like the last couple of weeks have been out of whack for yours truly.

After spending nearly four days in the hospital, followed by recovery (still), a little Thanksgiving break that turned into being semi-snowed in, things were just getting a little crazy. With Mother Nature's reminder where we live, deadlines were changed basically 12 hours earlier than normal, papers were not even printed one day and Sunday’s print moved to Monday and Monday’s print was non-existent.

Time to get in whack again. Or maybe I just need a wack.

Probably both.

Tuesday was a chance to get get back in the saddle again at the Hardrock Club’s weekly luncheon that featured South Dakota School of Mines men’s and women’s basketball head coaches Eric Glenn (men’s coach) and Jeri Jacobson (women’s coach), along with Mines athletics director Joel Lueken.

It was a good recap by both coaches of their games against arch-rival Black Hills State University (Nov. 26) and the Hardrocker men’s lop-sided win over Presentation College Nov. 29.

The coaches also talked about the upcoming Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference road swing Friday and Saturday to Dixie State (St. George, Utah) and Westminster College (Salt Lake City).

It’s a win for both programs even before the games begin, as neither have to drive through Wyoming to get there. I mean, they get to fly. I love Wyoming.

The Hardrocker athletes certainly appreciate the opportunity to get on a plane and cut their extremely busy timeline of the long trip that is 15 hours to Dixie and 12 back from Salt Lake City.

“We’re really excited to be able to fly out there instead of sitting on a bus for hours on end,” said Mines women’s senior basketball player Sami Steffek during the luncheon.

Glenn echoed Steffek’s appreciation.

“I think it is going to be a really big thing,” Glenn said. “As I was telling Joel (Lueken) the other day. I don’t know how much it is going to actually help us on this road trip, but it will definitely play a little bit into it. But for us with finals starting in the middle of next week, I think it would be really tough to be able to come back with our kids having to study for finals and budget projects to get done. It’s a really tough time; these last two weeks are just a bear for these student-athletes.”

Football coaching search

Lueken, meanwhile, gave a little update about the timeline of replacing Zach Tinker, who parted ways with the football program recently after four years as head coach and four other seasons as an assistant.

There will be a new Hardrocker football coach soon and Lueken is excited about the possibilities. He said approximately 70-75 coaches reached out to him by showing interest or applying for the position. 

“It has been fantastic, to be honest with you,” Lueken said. “They have been head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, Division I, II, III, NAIA coaches. That is a testament that everybody wants this job that has reached out to me because of the type of kids. That is the very first thing we talk about, either through email or on the phone: “Do you understand what type of scholar-athlete you are going to deal with in the engineering and science mind? It is quickly separated for those who understand and those who don’t.”

Lueken said the process is his decision. There is a search committee of one, a selection committee of one. He said they are looking to do interviews (three finalists) next week and hope to make a decision by the end of the week.

“Our athletes need to know who their football coach is before they go home (for Christmas break),” he said. “In a short amount of time we have done some really good things to make that position better. I’m very proud of that.”

It will be a little different, but interesting covering local college football next season as Black Hills State is also looking for a head coach after John Reiners parted ways with the Yellow Jackets after eight seasons.

Although things didn’t work out in the overall win-loss department, both coaches left their programs in a place where success can happen, and with a appreciation for their former school and student athletes.

There’s no doubt in this reporter’s eyes, both former head coaches have brought in a higher level of student-athlete than in years’ past. Good luck to them and they both have a bright future.

Both programs are still relatively new to the Division II level and as they say, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon.

Lueken went on to talk about the athletic department at Mines as a whole. He said what got them to where they are now is not going to get them where they need to be in the future.

He said it is important that as an athletic department, as a team and as individuals, that they evolve and keep moving forward.

“This is not meant to deter or distract from anything that we have done; we’ve made a lot of progress," he said. "But I want to set the bar high, I want our trend line to keep going forward and keep going up.”

Winter is here

If you didn’t already know by trying to get out of your driveway, winter is here, and so are the high school winter fall seasons. Wrestling competition is underway as we speak, with gymnastics beginning this weekend and boys’ and girls’ basketball tipping off next week.

Next weekend will be the massive Rapid City Invitational wrestling tournament, always one of the best in the region. In two weeks, the annual Lakota Nation Invitational boys’ and girls’ basketball tournament will be here at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center as well. It truly is one of the best.

With that said, here’s the annual request for all coaches and ADs to call or email your results in. There’s no beating around the bush — things have changed throughout the years in the business as far as being able to cover live or otherwise all of the sporting events that can happen on a busy night.

But we’ll do our best. We want to tell your team’s story, but we can't do it without your help. Again, call the RCJ sports department at 605-394-8440 or email us at sports@rapidcityjournal.com.

Here’s to a great winter sports season.

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