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Kraft becomes first BHSU athlete to earn DII All-American status

Photo courtesy of BHSU media relations Black Hills State University senior cross country runner Mitch Kraft, a Wessington Springs native, runs a men’s race during a meet earlier this season. Kraft earned All-American status at the NCAA Division II cross country championships Saturday

WESSINGTON SPRINGS — Three and a half years into his college career, Mitch Kraft has never run better.

Kraft became BHSU’s first national qualifier earlier this month and built on the momentum over the weekend. He again made history Saturday by becoming Black Hills State University’s first All-American at the Division II level. The top 40 runners out of 246 earned All-American status.

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“It was my best race I’ve ever ran in college, so that’s very motivating to know that I’m still improving,” the Wessington Springs native said. “It’s a neat feeling to be the first one to do that, but I’m definitely not going to be the last.”

Kraft finished with a time of 31 minutes, 8.8 seconds in the men’s 10K at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships in Spokane, Wash. His first 5K time was 15:50.7 and his second 5K time was 15:48.1, for a mile pace of 5:01 during the entire race.

The senior said he was patient during the race and didn’t let his emotions get the best of him on the big stage.

“At the beginning, I was told by three experienced coaches to control your emotions,” he said. “It’s a national meet that’s very intense and emotions can get away from you, and it did for some people.

“The first quarter mile I went out really fast and I stayed back in a little bit slower group, which benefited me later in the race when everybody else was getting tired. When I moved into the All-American spot for the first time at 7K into the race, it was a good feeling.”

He said earning All-American status has motivated him and his teammates heading into the track season.

“Bringing home an All-American in cross country has really fired up the distance kids, the sprinters, jumpers and looking for another All-American in the winter or spring,” he said.

During the indoor and outdoor track seasons, Kraft competes in the mile run and 3K race.

“I’m excited because I’m in some of the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Kraft said.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.