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Ready for the big stage: Area athletes look to shine with region's best at Dakota Relays

Burke/South Central's Kray Person competes during a meet at Howard Wood last year in Sioux Falls. Person will compete in the boys 3,200 today at the Dakota Relays. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS — In a weather-shortened season, track and field athletes across the state will be looking to make a statement in South Dakota's biggest meet this weekend.

The 93rd edition of the Howard Wood Dakota Relays get underway today and continues on Saturday at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. More than 3,000 middle school, high school and college student athletes will compete with some of the region's best.

Many athletes will be looking to achieve a top time of the season or a personal best in front of crowds that match a state meet atmosphere.

Here's a handful of events to watch at the Dakota Relays:

Boys distance races

The distance fields for both boys and girls are loaded with talent. Some of South Dakota's top distance runners will be tested by the best runners from Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota. In the boys 3,200-meter run set for 8:40 p.m. tonight, West Central standout Derick Peters, a future Wisconsin Badger, headlines the field with standouts from Iowa and North Dakota out to challenge him.

Peters holds the top times in Class A in the 800 (1 minute, 57.44 seconds), 1,600 (4:20.34) and 3,200 (9:30.14). He'll be one of the favorites in the boys special event 800 at 7:30 p.m. Area standouts Kray Person (Burke/South Central) and Aaron Voigt (Gregory) will look to crack the podium in both distance events. Person has Class B's second-best time in the 3,200 (10:23.66), while Voigt holds Class B's second-best 1,600 time (4:36.44).

Boys pole vault

For fans of pole vaulting, Saturday will be a showcase of the sport at its best both at the high school-level and the college-level. Starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, a field of 38 high school boys will soar through the sky. A trio of Mitchell Kernels—Kiel Nelson, Sam Jones and Sutton Carpenter—will be competing as will Wagner freshman Jaden Peters, who recently broke a conference and school record. Jones and Carpenter have each reached 12-9 this year, while Peters has hit 13-5 and Bon Homme's Anton Hejna has hit 13-0.

Harrisburg's Peyton Voss, Huron's Travis Kleinsasser and St. Thomas More's Jens Christensen have each surpassed 14-feet this year to hold top marks in the state.

The high school field will be a great warmup for the college version, which will feature South Dakota standout Chris Nilsen, who is one of the top pole vaulters in the nation and has cleared 19-0.25 this year.

Girls distance races

Along with the boys distance races, the girls field will feature strong talent from the region. Area cross country standouts Ella Byers (Chamberlain) and Sidda Schuyler (Winner) will both compete in the girls 3,200 set for 8:10 p.m. today and the 1,600 set for 1:05 p.m. on Saturday. The girls field features standouts from across South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Byers, a junior, holds the top Class A time in the 1,600 (5:13.84) and the third-best 3,200 time (11:44.77). Brookings' Ellie Abraham holds the top 1,600 time in the state (5:10.04).

Boys discus

Iowa standout Nick Phelps, who attends Woodbury Central in Moville, Iowa, cranked a throw of 196-feet, 2.5 inches on April 10, which at the time was the best throw in the nation. Phelps is a two-time Iowa state champion and will headline the field that features area standouts Nash Hutmacher (Chamberlain) and Jacob Joachim (Corsica-Stickney).

Hutmacher has the third-best throw in Class A at 147-08, while Joachim has the fourth-best discus throw in Class B at 153-01. Sioux Falls Roosevelt's Mason McCormick had South Dakota's best mark this year at 162-09.

Relays

There will be a plethora of top relay races at the Dakota Relays with most of the team's looking to see where they stack up against the rest of the state. In Class B, Freeman's 4x100 (44.94), 4x200 (1:34.14) and 4x400 (3:33.14) boys relay teams are ranked in the top two. In the 4x800, Burke/South Central (8:43.74) is chasing second-ranked Freeman Academy/Marion (8:42.44) and top-ranked James Valley Christian (8:41.64). The Vikings hold the top medley time (3:48.34), narrowly over second-ranked Gregory (3:48.66), third-ranked Corsica-Stickney (3:50.33) and fourth-ranked Freeman Academy/Marion (3:50.54).

In Class AA, the Sioux Falls Lincoln boys 4x100 team is one to watch. The Patriots recorded the second-best time in South Dakota history last week (42.14 seconds).

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