By: Aubrie Laufenberg
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. –Purdue Fort Wayne's Emma Rafuse and South Dakota's Eldon Warner continue to take home the hardware for their respective performances during the 2018 cross country season as they were named the women's and men's Cross Country Athletes of the Year. The recipients of the coach of the year honors are no strangers to the accolade. South Dakota's Dan Fitzsimmons earned the Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year, while South Dakota State's Rod DeHaven claimed the award on the men's side.
Rafuse, a senior from Greenville, Wis., broke a 12-year old league 6K record by nearly 10 seconds after clocking a 20:32.92 time at the 2018 Summit League Cross Country Championships to take home the title. Rafuse's race at the Great Lakes Regional Meet earned her a spot at the NCAA nationals, becoming the first Mastodon since 2008 to reach the meet. At the NCAA Women's Cross Country National Championship, she ran the league's second-fastest 6K time at the national meet (20:45.18) and finished 58th overall, the fourth-best finish of a Summit League runner at nationals.
Warner, a senior of Council Bluffs, Iowa, became the first Coyote to capture an individual Summit League cross country title after claiming the men's 2018 Summit League Championship 8K race with a time of 24:58.59. His victory earned him the title of the Men's Championship MVP. Warner completed his senior cross country campaign at the NCAA Midwest Regional Meet where he posted a 10K time of 32:11.4 to earn 56th place.
Fitzsimmons earned his fifth-straight Summit League Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year award after guiding the Coyotes to their fifth-consecutive league title. The South Dakota women went on to the NCAA Midwest Regional Meet and placed sixth as a team.
DeHaven claimed his seventh Summit League Men's Coach of the Year honor and extends his total coach of the year honors to eight between SDSU's men's and women's programs. He earned the award after helping the Jackrabbits to their third-straight championship title and seventh since they became a member of the league 12 years ago.
ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Through 36 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 115,000 at nine institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, Purdue Fort Wayne (Purdue University Fort Wayne), the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced 12 NCAA Champions along with over 100 Academic All-Americans, nearly 125 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.org website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.