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March 1, 2013

Scholar-Athlete Spotlight: South Dakota

Each month, The Summit League will feature outstanding student-athlete performances from a selected institution as recognized by its Faculty Athletic Representative. The March installment of The Summit League Scholar-Athlete Spotlight features three student-athletes from South Dakota.

Jeff Mettler, Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field
Eligibility Year/Hometown: Jr./Eureka, S.D.
Major: Kinesiology and Sport Science
GPA:  4.00

“Jeff is a great all-around person who brings out the best in everyone who surrounds him. He is a modest and humble leader who lets his performances speak for themselves. If there is a dent in his armor, we haven’t found it yet. He keeps getting better and better with every season.” -USD head cross country coach Dan Fitzsimmons

Jeff Mettler was named Indoor Track Championship MVP after leading the Coyotes to their first Summit League Championship at the DakotaDome in late February. Mettler won the 3,000-meter run and set a meet record in the process. He also won the mile and placed third in the 5,000-meter run. Those wins make Mettler a three-time Summit League champion. He set a program record and won the league’s 3,000-meter steeplechase championship during the outdoor season a year ago. Mettler went on to compete at the NCAA West Preliminaries in the event to cap a terrific season. Sandwiched between those accomplishments is a fall cross country season where Mettler finished runner-up at The Summit League Championship Meet hosted by Oakland. It was the second year in a row that Mettler had placed in the top five. He was South Dakota’s top performer at all five 8k races during the fall season.

Alexis Yackley, Women’s Basketball
Eligibility Year/Hometown: Sr./Onida, S.D.
Major: Criminal Justice
GPA: 3.85 

“Alexis strives to do her best in everything she approaches and that’s evident with her academic successes and the fact that she will be going to law school here when her career is over. She’s competitive, consistent and plays with an energy that’s contagious for our entire team. She is epitome of what we look for in a USD basketball player.” -USD head basketball coach Amy Williams

Alexis Yackley has been the floor general of University of South Dakota’s women’s basketball team in each of the last three seasons. Her play at the point has resulted in back-to-back 20-win seasons and consecutive postseason tournament berths. The Coyotes beat Drake in the first round of the WNIT last year and finished 23-8 overall. Yackley was one of five players named to the Academic All-Summit League Team last season after posting the seventh-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation and leading the league in assists. She’s back in the top-20 nationally this season and is on pace to surpass her assist total from a year ago. The Coyotes will be one of the top seeds playing in their first Summit League Tournament this month. Yackley has led USD’s transition to Division I and has compiled more than 400 assists and 130 steals in the process. She has also scored more than 500 points in a Coyote uniform.

Bethany Buell, Women’s Track & Field
Eligibility Year/Hometown: Jr./St. Louis, Mo.
Major: Psychology
GPA:  3.97

“Bethany pays attention to the details. She understands that getting a fraction better in a number of areas will eventually add up. That mentality is the core of her success.” -USD pole vault coach Derek Miles

Bethany Buell has been a pioneer as a student-athlete at the University of South Dakota. She was the first Coyote to qualify for a national meet and the first to earn All-America status after placing 13th at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. That was just the beginning for Buell, a two-time Missouri state champion in high school. Buell is 5-for-5 in winning conference/league championships in the pole vault. Her latest one came in February when she vaulted 14’5.5” to win The Summit League’s indoor title. It was a career-best mark for Buell and the nation’s fourth-best effort to date. She will compete at the indoor national meet for the first time March 8-9 in Arkansas. Buell placed third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June – South Dakota’s highest finish at a Division I national meet – which made her a two-time All-American. She also competed at the United States Olympic Trials where she finished 15th.