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Eric Peterson, Published October 18 2011

Peterson: Dragons senior cross country runner Thompson leads the way

Moorhead - The details are important to Danielle Thompson, and that’s what makes her a valuable member of the Minnesota State Moorhead women’s cross country team.

She is the lone senior on the team and the Dragons No. 1 runner. If the team is going through a drill in practice and Thompson finishes first, she makes a point to support her teammates.

“She stops and she encourages the other girls,” said MSUM assistant coach Ryan Milner. “It’s the little things that make the difference.”

Thompson and MSUM host the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championships Saturday at Ponderosa Golf Course near Glyndon, Minn. The women’s race is slated for 11 a.m. and the men’s race for noon.

In her final collegiate cross country season, Thompson has enjoyed taking the lead role for a team that has a freshman and three sophomores among its top five runners.

“I can hopefully set a good example for them and that’s just been my goal all season,” said Thompson, who holds MSUM records in the indoor 5,000 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase. “It’s nice to be able to have a positive influence on them and lead them.”

MSUM head coach Keith Barnier said Thompson has been the perfect senior to lead this young team because she is “the most talented runner we’ve got, and she is the hardest worker and that is a good mix.”

Thompson was also a cross country and track athlete in high school at Grand Forks Central. In track, Thompson was in an interesting mix of events, competing in the 100-meter hurdles along with the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs.

“I started off with the hurdles and then joined cross country,” she said. “I just loved hurdles so much that I wanted to do both.”

At MSUM, Thompson has been able to combine her love for jumping over things and running long distances, excelling in the steeplechase.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a hard, hard work kind of fun. You get to jump in a pit of water. That is pretty intense and I just love hurdling. I like to watch steeple videos and watching them going over the barriers and what techniques they use.”

The steeplechase will have to wait until spring.

The only barriers Thompson will have to worry about Saturday are a few rolling hills on the golf course and a tough conference field. Both the Augustana and University of Mary women’s teams are ranked in the Top 10 in NCAA Division II.

Thompson’s goal is to earn All-NSIC honors, which are awarded to the Top 20 individuals.

“She is somebody that has given everything she’s got for five years and I am so appreciative,” Barnier said. “I never feel bad losing a good senior because that means you had one. They can do a lot for your program.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com