On top of his game: Chamberlain’s Santiago hits stride after overcoming adversity
CHAMBERLAIN -- Chamberlain’s Dominic Santiago hopes to turn heartbreak into happiness.
Santiago suffered an Achilles injury in the middle of last year’s Class A state cross-country meet. He still managed to finish in 68th place.
But that didn’t soften the blow for Santiago, who entered with the state’s top Class A regional time.
“It was like a heartbreak,” Santiago said. “I worked all the previous summers so hard and then just to have it come down to that … kind of sucked. But you can’t dwell on it. You just have to move forward.”
That was the plan, but he’s been stuck in neutral at times. After the Achilles injury, Santiago couldn’t run for two weeks and missed the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional in Sioux Falls.
He returned to form this fall and clocked in at 16-minutes and 45-seconds at the Big Dakota Conference meet on Sept. 17. Santiago’s sights were then set on Hart Ranch -- location of Saturday’s state cross-country meet -- on Sept. 25 for the Rapid City Invitational.
But Santiago navigated around more obstacles. He couldn’t gameplan for Hart Ranch and missed the invitational because he was quarantined.
After training on his own for two weeks, he geared up for the Southeast South Dakota Conference meet in Chamberlain on Oct. 5. Santiago and Winner Area’s Kade Watson battled throughout the race, but Santiago faced another hurdle.
He had to pull out of the race due to lightheadedness, allowing Watson to claim the race. It also put some uneasiness for Santiago entering the Region 4A meet on Oct. 15.
“I was a little nervous because last week me and him were head to head the whole race until I pulled out,” Santiago said. “I knew he was going to come out gunning.”
It was Santiago and Watson again duking it out for the region crown. But not before Santiago had a slow start out and immediately fell behind the pace.
“I kind of didn’t get a good push off at the beginning and I kind of got swallowed up and then I finally broke out of there and whatnot,” said Santiago, adding it was frustrating getting off to the slow start.
But he regrouped, took the lead and covered the 5,000-meter distance in 16-minutes and :43 seconds, edging Watson by two seconds.
Next on the comeback tour is Saturday’s Class A state cross-country meet at Hart Ranch. Chamberlain coach Holly Evans said top-10 is a realistic goal for Santiago. She added he looks stronger than last year despite all the obstacles he’s faced.
“He’s been able to work through that and I think he’s on top of his game right now,” Evans said. “So it’s good to see.”