Dirksen began his head coaching career at his alma mater South Dakota State, in 1969
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Head to Dirksen's Alma Mater

By NU Athletic Communications

Huskers Head to Dirksen's Alma Mater...
   The Nebraska cross country team heads out of state for the first time this season. They will head north for the South Dakota State University Classic on Saturday at Edgebrook Golf Course in Brookings, S.D.
   Nebraska head coach Jay Dirksen began his coaching career as the head men's cross country and track and field coach at his alma mater, South Dakota State, in 1969. In 1975, Dirksen started the women's cross country program at South Dakota State. He coached six NCAA Division II champions and 34 NCAA Division II All-Americans during his eight years at South Dakota State. His 1973 Jackrabbit men's cross country team won the NCAA Division II Cross Country championship. Dirksen will travel back to South Dakota State for the last time this weekend as the head coach for the Huskers
The Husker men will be first up at 9:20 a.m. as they take on the 8K course. On the men's side, nine teams (and alumni) will run in the SDSU Classic: Northern Iowa, North Dakota, MN State Mankato, MN State Moorhead, Wayne State, Mount Mary, Midland Lutheran, University of Sioux Falls, SDSU and SDSU Alumni. The Huskers biggest competition will be nationally ranked division I Minnesota (20th).
   Following the men's race, the Husker women will then take to the course at 10 a.m. for the 5,000 meter race. Ranked eighth in the regional team rankings entering Saturday, The Huskers will take on ten teams Minnesota, Northern Iowa, North Dakota, MN State Moorhead, Wayne State, Minnesota Duluth, Mount Mary, Midland Lutheran, SDSU and University of Sioux Falls. Along with the men the women's biggest competition will be nationally ranked division I Minnesota (21st). Awards will be handed out at 10:45 a.m. to the first 15 finishers and the top three finishers from NAIA schools (who are not in the top 15).

Husker Women Claim Seventh Straight Greeno Title...
   The Nebraska women's cross country team captured its 17th title at the 22nd annual Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational Saturday at Pioneers Park. The women's university division victory marked their seventh consecutive Woody Greeno title, while the Husker men added a third-place finish.
   Jessica Furlan led the Huskers with a third-place individual finish in a time of 21:32.08, which placed her 11th on the all-time Pioneers Park performance list. The Huskers placed three more in the top 15, including senior Erica Hamik's fifth-place showing and Katie White's sixth-place effort. Ashley Miller added a 12th-place performance.
  Sophomore Sarah Plambeck just missed a top-15 showing with her 16th-place showing in a time of 22:25.08.
   Trevor Vidlak led the Nebraska men with a fourth-place finish in a time of 24:46.22. Vidlak's time was more than 2:30 faster than his time at the Woody Greeno a year ago. Jim Walmsley of Air Force claiming the individual title. Walmsley claimed his second straight Greeno title in the sixth-fastest time (24:15.3) in Pioneers Park history. Wyoming's Greg Miller took second and Air Force's Jeremy Drenckhahn finished third.
   Nebraska's Brad Doering added a top-10 finish by placing ninth, while Jesse Adams took 19th. Jarren Heng finished 22nd, and Connor Gibson placed 33rd.
   The Huskers ended the 22nd annual Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational on a bittersweet note, by paying tribute to Head Coach Jay Dirksen. A major contributor to the historic success of the annual meet, Dirksen led the way in helping the Huskers host nearly 60 teams and more than 700 student-athletes on an annual basis. Dirksen was also honored by Nebraska Wesleyan's Head Coach Ted Bulling, with a plaque commemorating all the hard work Dirksen has done for Nebraska's cross country program and for the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational.

Husker Women Capture Third Straight Title...

    The Nebraska cross country team opened the 2011 season with the Husker women capturing their third straight Creighton/Nebraska-Omaha team title. Ashley Miller raced to an individual crown on the women's side, while Jarren Heng took second on the men's side to help the Huskers place second as a team.
   The win in Omaha marked the sixth title for the Husker women in the past seven years. The Husker women were dominant over Creighton and Nebraska-Omaha, as Miller led a 1-2-4-5-6 finish for the Huskers with a time of 19:04.21 in the 5K race.  Miller was followed by Erica Hamik, Katie White, Sarah Plambeck and Isabel Andrade.
   "The women ran solid as a group," Head Coach Jay Dirksen said. "All the sophomores ran really well, and I was especially impressed with Sarah Larson as she ran really well for her first ever cross country meet."
   For the men, the Huskers placed six runners in the top 15. Heng paced the pack with an 8K time of 27:31.24.  A sophomore from Norfolk, Neb., Heng was joined in the top 15 by Tommy Brinn (6th), Peter Falcon (11th), Connor Gibson (12th), Dani Dapo (14th) and Alney Tobias (15th).
   "We held three of our top five guys out today," Dirksen said. "Jarren Heng ran real comfortably today, the men have a lot of room for improvement but we will be able to tell where we are as a team at the home meet when everybody is out on the course."

Dirksen to Retire Following Cross Country Season...
   After 28 seasons as Nebraska's head cross country coach and assistant coach in charge of the distance squad for the NU track and field team, Jay Dirksen has announced that he will retire following the 2011 cross country season and hand the reins over to David Harris. Dirksen will leave Nebraska with an impressive resume that includes 14 cross country All-Americans, 39 track and field All-Americans, 45 track and field individual conference champions and five Big 12 cross country team titles.
   "It is hard to believe that 28 years have gone by so fast since I first came to Nebraska," Dirksen said. "The University of Nebraska is committed to making it possible for our student-athletes to be well-rounded individuals. The balance between academics and athletics is excellent at Nebraska."
   Entering the 2011 season, Dirksen's cross country teams have produced 36 top-five finishes and 21 top-three finishes in his 56 appearances at the Big Eight and Big 12 Championships. The NU women have won five conference team championships (1985, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993), the only women's cross country titles in school history. The men have also traditionally been one of the top teams in the conference. Under Dirksen, three Huskers have won individual conference titles, two for the men, Jonah Kiptarus (1996) and David Iteffa (1991), and one for the women, Fran ten Bensel (1991). Through all the success, Dirksen said some of the best memories have come away from the course.
   "The relationships with the athletes are the best," Dirksen said. "I really enjoy watching a young 17- or 18-year-old athlete come in and mature not only as a runner, but also as a person. It's fun to know that you've had some influence on his or her life. I think a lot of times athletes don't realize what they've learned in athletics until they get out in the real world for a while. It's great to be a part of that whole process."
   In cross country, Dirksen's 14 All-Americans have earned a total of 20 All-America awards. Only one Husker male, and no female runners, had earned All-America recognition before Dirksen's arrival in 1983. Among the honored athletes are three-time All-American ten Bensel (1990-91-92) and two-time All-Americans Cleophas Boor (1996-97), Joe Kirby (1988-89), Sammie Resh (1987-88) and Jacques van Rensburg (1988-89). In addition to the second- and third-place finishes by Kiptarus and Boor at the 1996 national meet, the other highest men's individual places have been earned by Jean Verster, who took fifth in 1985, and Boor, who placed sixth in 1997. All-America status was also earned by Kayte Tranel (2005), Jeroen Broekzitter (1997), Theresa Stelling (1993), Kurt Russell (1984) and Wally Duffy (1983).
   "I have been very blessed to have been at Nebraska all these years," Dirksen said. "We have had many great athletes and many great teams. The reason I love coaching so much is because of these athletes. We have such a great group of kids this year, and I am so excited to be able to coach them. I have been doing this for years but these kids only get four years and we want to make it the best experience for them."
   Nebraska cross country athletes have been known for being great students ever since Dirksen's arrival on campus. Each year the Herman Award is given to the Nebraska men's and women's teams with the highest grade-point averages. The 2009-10 awards were swept by the cross country teams for the second straight year. In the 17-year history of the award, the women have won it 10 times, while the men have claimed eight awards. Both teams were also honored in 2010 as an All-Academic Cross Country Team for the third straight year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The women posted a GPA of 3.449, while the men collectively posted a GPA of 3.313. Since the award was first given out by the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association in 1994 (combined with the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association in 2006 to form the USTFCCCA), the women have earned the honor 16 times, posting the top GPA in the country in 1994, 1995 and 2000. The men have been honored seven times.
   Dirksen will transition the program to Harris this fall. Dirksen plans to retire with his wife, Diane, to their home in Hot Springs Village, Ark. Through an exception from the NCAA, Pepin was able to hire Harris prior to Dirksen's retirement.
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