Kernels join tough AA field at state
Geoff Gross wants his athletes to leave their best performances for last.
The Kernel track and field team has 20 girls and 17 boys participating in this year's Class AA state track and field meet, which begins at 11 a.m. Friday at Sioux Falls O'Gorman High School. Last year, the Mitchell girls took 13th with 23 points and the Kernel boys didn't earn any points for the team total.
For the girls, the Kernels have four state placers returning and several others looking to break through onto the podium.
Last year's state placers -- Ellie Rew, Emma Schmidt, Taylor Volesky and Abby Sudbeck -- each look to improve. Rew took eighth in the 100-meter hurdles and is entered in both the 100 and 300 hurdles this season.
In the 100 hurdles, Rew is coming into the meet tied for second with Sioux Falls Roosevelt's Valerie Moos with a time of 14.9 seconds. Harrisburg's Haley Bruggeman is the top qualifier in 14.8.
"Ellie has beaten both girls this season and they've beaten her," Gross said. "It's very up in the air and is going to be a competitive race."
Schmidt, an Augustana College signee, finished seventh in the 400-meter dash last year and qualified for the event again this season. Volesky was sixth in the triple jump and will compete in the long and triple jump events this weekend, while Sudbeck took fifth in both the discus and shot put and earned berths in both events this year.
Other individual competitors for Mitchell on the girls side are freshman Josie Dierks (triple jump), senior Amy Gaetze (200), senior Shelly Iburg (shot put, discus), junior Kaley Nolz (discus), sophomore Kristin Pistulka (200) and sophomore Tevyn Waddell (high jump, pole vault).
Last year, Mitchell had two boys who were on the brink of placing in field events. Senior Ben Prill and sophomore Mason Carpenter are looking to earn the Kernels points one year later.
This season, Prill is competing in the long and triple jump events, while Carpenter qualified again for pole vault. Other individual athletes for Mitchell are senior Gramm Johnson (100) and junior Tyler Larson (200, 400).
Mitchell will compete in five relays for both boys and girls at the state meet.
"Our goal is to make it to the second day in several relays," Gross said. "We're going to have to perform well because it's very competitive."
Gross said the favorites in the team races are Rapid City Stevens and Brandon Valley on the girls side and the Sioux Falls schools and Rapid City schools for boys. Aberdeen Central won the girls title last season, while Sioux Falls Washington won the boys crown.
There are 780 total Class AA athletes competing at state, with 386 girls and 394 boys.