The Minot State University women's cross country team suffered the first growing pains of transitioning to NCAA Division II before the season even started.
Junior twins Courtney and Breyette Schall, both 2010 NAIA All-Americans and the Beavers' top two runners, have been ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester.
Head coach Stu Melby said it's not a GPA problem, but the Schalls don't have enough credits in their respective majors. He said the twins would be eligible if the Beavers were still in the NAIA.
Minot State University senior Cassie Sayler will lead a young women’s cross country squad this season. Photo courtesy of University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) sports information.
"With all these changes that we're learning and all these things with NCAA and guidelines, some of it just kind of slipped through the cracks," Melby said. "It's all new rules, growing pains with the NCAA."
MSU appealed the ruling, but Melby doesn't expect the Schalls to compete until the spring - when they run distance events for the track and field team.
Senior Cassie Sayler will take more of a leadership role as the Beavers prepare for their first meet of the season - Friday's Wiley Wilson Memorial. Previously the Minot State Invitational, the event was renamed to honor the 29-year MSU cross country and track and field coach who died in 2011 after a battle with cancer.
"(The team is) gonna take a hit," Melby said of replacing the Schall twins. "I think we've got a good group of young people. ... A lot of people have been working hard and I think they're determined to go out there and still do the best they can."
Melby said Sayler will be the Beavers' top runner and Tasha Heisler, a freshman from Velva, could fill the No. 2 spot.
"(Sayler's) been doing a great job, had a great summer of training," Melby said. "I think she's ahead of where she was last year so she'll be really focused for her senior year."
Senior Brandon Velasquez and junior Max Boeckel will lead the men's side, and Melby said freshmen Joel Cartwright and Alex Buchholz have been running well in practice.
"I think Alex is gonna surprise people," Melby said. "He's doing pretty well. I know during his senior year at Minot High he missed some training because of the flood and their family problems with the flood, but he's had a great summer of training and he's been up there and is not afraid to push with the top guys."
Velasquez is eager to see where the Beavers stack up with the rest of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
"We wanna poke around and see where we stand," Velasquez said. "We've faced a couple teams before, but we've never had this scenario before, so it'll be interesting. Most likely, people will step up to the occasion, stick their nose into it and see what happens."
Boeckel performed well enough in Xterra series triathlons this summer to qualify for a national race, but didn't compete because it encroached on cross country season.
"I think it's very beneficial, not only because it works other muscles but because you get a break from running," he said. "Sometimes if you just run, you get burnt out - at least I do. ... So I like to change it up and keep it fun."
The men's team will also compete in the Wiley Wilson Memorial meet at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
LB has big game
MSU sophomore Casey Weinmann made the most of filling in for the injured Chad Marshall on Saturday at Wayne State College (Neb.).
The Harvey High School product led the Beavers with 14 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, in MSU's 20-6 defeat.
"Casey Weinmann probably stepped up as best as anybody we've had in a long time at linebacker," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "He played within the scheme really well."
Rudolph said he expects Marshall, who suffered an upper leg injury in the Beavers' opener against Minnesota State University-Mankato, to return to action Saturday against the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.). Weinmann will continue to see playing time when Marshall returns, Rudolph said.
Sall's strong start
It hasn't taken Mallory Sall long to become a large part of the MSU volleyball team's offense.
The 6-foot freshman from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, has led the Beavers (3-6) in kills a few times already this season.
The outside hitter had a team-high 14 kills in a four-game loss Saturday to Briar Cliff University (Iowa).
MSU coach Travis Ward said he thinks Sall can become a force in the NSIC, arguably the top NCAA Division II volleyball conference.
She really has a lot of good tools to play outside in this conference," Ward said. "She's a good passer. She has some defensive weaknesses, but they're things that are correctable.
"You see it happening every day, she's getting better. She's just gonna become better than a good player in the Northern Sun. She'll become a great player."
Despite playing in bordering states, USF and MSU haven't poached any local football recruits from each other in the last few years.
The Cougars' roster, rife with players from South Dakota, features zero North Dakotans. MSU's roster is loaded with home-state talent but no South Dakotans.
"I don't think it's really a coincidence," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "They're down there in the southeastern part of the state and we're up here in the northwestern part of the state."
USF coach Jed Stugart said he thinks the trend could change now that the teams are part of the NSIC.
"I think both teams will find that start to change now that they're in our conference, and there's a lot of chances for parents to see their kids play in the region," he said.