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Orange flavor: Hegland makes mark at Syracuse

Dave Hegland takes little credit for his increasing success as a coach.

But those around him say it’s no accident.

The former Jamestown High School and South Dakota State University track and field standout continues to build an impressive résumé as an assistant track and field coach at Syracuse University.

Hegland’s been on the staff for the Orange for 10 years now, specializing in sprints and hurdles. One of his pupils — Jarret Eaton — became Syracuse’s first national champion, winning the 60-meter hurdles at the 2012 indoor national championships.

Beginning today in Eugene, Oregon, at the NCAA outdoor nationals championships, hurdler Freddie Crittenden and sprinter Shaina Harrison compete against the top college athletes in the country, and Hegland will be there.

“I’m pretty fortunate. These jobs are pretty hard to come by,” the 1999 Jamestown High School graduate said. “If anything, I’ve been more lucky than good. I don’t take anything for granted. When I got this job my résumé certainly wouldn’t have qualified me for it. I was at the right place at the right time.”

After a stellar athletic career for the Blue Jays, highlighted by a banner day for him and his fellow Blue Jays at the 1999 state track and field meet in Grand Forks, Hegland went on to become a two-time All-American at South Dakota State University and still holds the school record in both the 110 (14.18 seconds) and 60 hurdles (8.05).

After graduating, he was looking at potential graduate assistantships and eventually landed at Syracuse in upstate New York, and the rest is history.

“I came in in the fall of 2004, so just about 10 years now. It’s worked out very well. I’m definitely thankful,” said Hegland, who has a 2-year-old daughter and his wife Erika is expecting their second child later this month.

Those connected with the Orange speak highly of Hegland’s abilities.

Syracuse head track and field coach Chris Fox said in a story in the school’s newspaper — The Daily Orange — that Hegland is, “One of the best sprints and hurdles coaches in the country.”

In the same story, Eaton — the All-American sprinter — now training for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, credited Hegland for, “The maturity I have, knowledge of the hurdles, knowledge of nutrition and sleep, my technique and patience have all been the result of being under coach Dave.”

Not surprisingly, Hegland always wanted to coach. He grew up at the track as his dad — Joe — was the longtime head coach of the Blue Jays prior to becoming a school administrator in Jamestown. Joe just retired in recent years as principal of Jamestown Middle School, while his mom Elaine just retired from teaching in 2013, but still subbed last year.

“It was a great way to grow up. We lived near Gussner (Elementary) by the track. I always followed my dad around. I got to ride on the bus. Certainly, he’s the reason I’m doing this,” Dave said of his dad, Joe. “There were so many great athletes. I got to watch Darin (Erstad). We all wanted to be like Darin. Jenny Schmeichel was a great distance runner. It was a great time to be a kid and watch all these great athletes.”

Hegland spoke glowingly of his high school years as an athlete for the Blue Jays where he competed in track and field in the spring, wrestling for coach Ron Zehren in the winter and cross country in the fall, before playing football as a senior, in what was Bill Cahill’s first year as head coach.

“I wasn’t a great football player by any means, but that team had some great players, great athletes,” he recalled fondly. “I think back to the coaches we had. I appreciate them even more now, and I thought they were great back then.

“Russ Schmeichel, Mike Harris, Mark Ukestad, Bill Kelly, Dave Drenth were so knowledgeable. Frank Conlon was the head coach, they made it so fun, but it was also very competitive. I’m probably forgetting somebody, and I’ll feel bad about that, but we had such good coaches. It was a great experience.”

At the 1999 state meet, the Blue Jays placed third as a team, their best finish since 1979. Hegland and Bryan Erstad locked in a great duel in the 110 hurdles with Erstad winning by .25 seconds. Erstad also won the 300 hurdles, while Hegland was third.

“That was a memorable day. Bryan, you know, was such an animal, but we had a lot of great athletes. That was a fun team to be a part of,” he said.

Coaching more than fills the void of competing these days, he says, and he’s perfectly happy in his current role.

“A lot of assistant coaches obviously aspire to other things, but honestly right now I don’t,” Hegland said. “I work with really good people and get to coach very talented kids. I’m pretty lucky to be doing what I’m doing.”

Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701)

952-8460 or by e-mail at

Dave Selvig
Selvig has been a sports writer at The Sun since 1999 and sports editor since 2009.
(701) 952-8460