MHS, 28 area teams to compete at Howard Wood RelaysFor the last two years, rain has wreaked havoc on one of South Dakota’s premiere track and field events, cutting it short both years. But with the forecast calling for clear skies and temperatures in low 60s in Sioux Falls this weekend, it looks like the Howard Wood Dakota Relays might finally go off without a hitch.
By: Matt Bunke, The Daily Republic
For the last two years, rain has wreaked havoc on one of South Dakota’s premiere track and field events, cutting it short both years.
But with the forecast calling for clear skies and temperatures in low 60s in Sioux Falls this weekend, it looks like the Howard Wood Dakota Relays might finally go off without a hitch.
The Dakota Relays, which take place today and Saturday, will include more than 3,000 athletes from the middle school, high school and college levels. Dozens of area teams will have athletes competing, including Mitchell, which will be competing in 22 events and have an alternate entry in seven more.
The Kernels have 12 different athletes qualified for 19 individual events, and another six athletes who are alternates. Mitchell will also compete in four relays and be an alternate in another. Mitchell coach Geoff Gross said he expects his team to post some of its best performances of the season.
“There’s 8,000 people there, and it’s always exciting to get to run in front of that many people,” Gross said. “All your best times always happen at Howard Wood, just because of the atmosphere and the competition.”
Mitchell’s highest-seeded athlete is Caitlin Way, who qualified with the third-best mark in both the shot put and discus, and could be involved in a great battle with another area athlete in both events. Stickney’s Shelby Assmus has the second-best mark in both events, just ahead of Way.
Way is the only Kernel seeded in the top eight in an event, and comes in with a mark of 129 feet in the discus and 39-feet-3 inches in the shot put.
“Caitlin’s going to raise her level,” Gross said. “In the shot put, if you took her throw of 41 feet indoors, she would be the top seed. Nobody works harder than Caitlin and … she’s going to be rewarded for that this weekend.”
If Way has hopes of winning either event, she’ll have to find a way to better Assmus’ marks. Assmus has the second-best mark in both the shot put (40-feet-11 inches) and the discus (129-feet-9 inches). She is the two-time defending Class B champion in the discus and also won last year’s shot put title, but will be nursing a back injury this weekend.
“They said she’d be OK to throw, but she won’t be 100 percent,” Stickney girls’ coach Mike Tuschen said. “I wish this injury wouldn’t have happened, because I think she can compete with anybody in all three classes.”
While Way is the only Kernel seeded in the top eight, Mitchell does have some other athletes that could fare well. One of those events is the girls’ 1,600-meter medley relay, where Mitchell will run in the second-fastest heat, even though Gross said his team has run one of the four fastest actual times in the state this year.
“I would have liked to see us get in the fastest heat, but I think we have a very good chance of placing in the top five or higher,” Gross said of the squad that includes Tessa Dee, Amelia Ladd, Kim Duff and Kendra Knight.
Stephanie Uher comes in with the 19th-best jump in the high jump at 5 feet, but as the second-place finisher at last year’s Class AA state meet, will be looking to improve her heights from earlier this season. Also on the girls’ side, Dee comes in with the 14th-best mark in the triple jump at 34-feet-2 inches.
On the boys’ side, Mitchell’s top qualifier is Turner Volesky, who qualified 14th in the high jump at 6-feet-1 inch.
“He almost cleared 6-5 the other day in Yankton, and if he PRs again, he has very good chance of placing high in the high jump,” Gross said.
The Mitchell boys will also field three relay teams. Those relays are the 4x200, 4x400 and 1,600-meter sprint medley.
In addition to Mitchell, 28 area teams will be in competition. Of those, Platte-Geddes (27), Freeman (25), Freeman Academy (23) and Winner (23) will be competing in the most events, but it would actually be Marion that could score the most points based on normal meet scoring.
Marion has only three different athletes competing in four individual events, but has numerous relays that are seeded highly. Between the boys’ and the girls’ teams, Marion has seven relays that qualified for the fastest heat by being in the top eight in Class B, including four in the top four.
Marion’s top two relays are the boys’ 4x400 meters, which is seeded first, and the boys’ 4x200 meters, which is seeded second, thanks in large part to Brad Tunge and Darin Schoenwald
“We don’t have many out, but what we have out has really worked hard,” Marion boys’ coach Jerry Kippes said. “When you can build around two good sprinters, everybody wants to work hard to be with them.”
A number of other area athletes have the top seed in their events. On the boys’ side, that list is made up of Andes Central’s Cody Snyder in the shot put, Parkston’s 1,600 sprint medley relay team and Plankinton’s 4x100-meter relay team.
Other notable individuals to watch on the boys’ side are Lyman’s Zane Abrahamson and Winner’s Zach Horstman, who are seeded third and fourth, respectively, in the high jump, Stickney’s Luke Hauert, who is seeded second in the 110-meter low hurdles and fourth in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, and Parkston’s Alex Muntefering, who will compete in the 800-meter run, this year’s featured event. Muntefering won the Class A state title in that event last year.
On the girls’ side, Hanson’s Bethany Gross is seeded first in the long jump, and is the only individual or relay to have the top draw. Scotland’s 1,600-meter medley relay has the second seed, and other individuals to watch include Hanson’s Brigitte Gross (third in pole vault), and Kimball’s Heather Spier (fifth in shot put).
The first college events begin today at 12:30 p.m. and the first high school events begin at 3 p.m. The action gets under way Saturday at 8 a.m.