University of Southern Indiana Men’s Cross Country/Track & Field announced that four competitors have signed to compete for the Screaming Eagles and Head Coach Mike Hillyard in 2021-22. That list includes incoming sophomore Mitchell Hopf (Santa Claus, Indiana) as well as incoming freshmen Dylan Bland (Holland, Indiana), Elliott Buechlein (Lamar, Indiana) and Ricky Pflanz (Huntingburg, Indiana).
Hopf is a transfer from Indiana State University, where he appeared in four cross country meets and three indoor track meets as a freshman in 2019-20 before racing in two indoor meets and one outdoor meet during the COVID-19 altered 2020-21 season.
A graduate of Heritage Hills High School (Lincoln City, Indiana), Hopf helped HHHS to the 2018 Pocket Athletic Conference Track & Field championship. He was a two-time state qualifier as well as an IATCCC Class 3A All-State honoree on the cross country course in 2017. He also was an Academic All-State honoree in 2019, a five-time All-PAC honoree and two-time sectional champion.
Bland graduated from Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Indiana, where he earned letters in basketball, cross country and track & field. He was a two-time IATCCC Class 2A All-State honoree on the cross country course as well as a three-time All-PAC honoree.
The school-record holder in the 5,000 meters (15:50), Bland also was an All-Conference honoree in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, while also setting school records in the 1,600 meters (4:24), the 3,200 meters (9:44) and the 4×800-meter relay (8:26). He was an IHSAA Sportsmanship Award winner.
Buechlein recently finished up his senior year at Heritage Hills High School where he competed in basketball, cross country, soccer, swimming and diving and track & field.
A two-time Academic All-State honoree, Buechlein earned All-State honors on the track this past spring when he finished sixth in the 1,600 meters at the IHSAA Track & Field Championships. He has helped his track & field team to a pair of conference titles while helping HHHS’s cross country team to the 2020 PAC title. He also was a three-time regional qualifier in the 4×800-meter relay.
Pflanz also is a graduate of Southridge High School, where he collected letters in football, track & field and wrestling. He was a member of SHS’s state championship team as a freshman in 2018 as well as a three regional championship teams.
This past spring, Pflanz was named SHS’s move valuable runner after earning SHS’s hardest worker award on the track as a sophomore in 2019. He posted a personal-best 800-meter time of one minute, 58.08 seconds at the Jasper IHSAA sectional as a senior in 2021.
“It’s exciting to bring in this level of talent, right out of our own backyard,” Hillyard said. “Mitchell, Elliott, Dylan and Ricky are all good friends who have competed with and against each other for quite some time. They are all tremendous students, students of the sport and will be great representatives of our program and University.”
USI begins the 2021 cross country season September 10 when it hosts the Stegemoller Classic at Angel Mounds. The Eagles also are slated to host the NCAA II Midwest Region Championships at Angel Mounds November 6.