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MHS drag racers hope success brings popularity to track

For two Mitchell High School drag racers, this year was one to remember.

Mitchell brought home its first-ever high school team title in September, according to Bailey Magstadt, a senior, and Nicole Wittstruck, a 2013 MHS graduate.

MHS had 50 points, beating runner-up Tea Area (40) and third-place Plankinton (30). There were 12 high schools represented from South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.

The two competed in three different events at the Thunder Valley Dragways in Marion, excelling in both of their categories.

“I think it’s a big deal,” said Wittstruck, who’s competed in drag racing for three years. “We got second last year, so it’s cool that I got to be a part of the first one.”

Wittstruck was second in bracket I in all three races — which were held in July, August and September — and finished runner-up with 50 points behind Wyatt Lardy, of Tea. Bracket I is the fastest class, and Wittstruck said she’s reached 110 mph in her car, a Trans Am.

In her first year, Magstadt won her first two races and handled pressure to take home first place in bracket II, earning 100 points. Tessa Verba, of Plankinton, was second behind Magstadt with 50 points.

“I did feel pressure going into my last race,” said Magstadt, who races a 1984 Chevy Corvette. “When you’re on top, everybody wants to kick you from underneath. I just stayed focused. If you want to win, you have to be focused.

“You have to learn how to hit that light right and if something goes wrong, you have to know how to handle it.”

The Thunder Valley Dragways differ from Huron and Wagner speedways, which are dirt, oval-shaped tracks. Marion’s track is one-fourth of a mile long and the surface is asphalt. At the start, racers must time the start exactly to earn a perfect start. The starting light goes from red to yellow to green, which is when the race begins.

“You have to get a good light and it’s a challenge,” Wittstruck said. “If you go too early, you red light and lose. If you wait too long, then you’re way behind.”

Wittstruck said the number of high schoolers that compete in Marion is decreasing and hopes more people will pick up the sport. Wittstruck is unable to compete in the high school division next year, but will race in a different class.

Magstadt has one more year of high school racing and it is something she wants to continue to do and get more people involved in.

“When I’m done with high school, I want to keep going in the other classes and see where it takes me,” Magstadt said. “Racing is something anyone can do and is for all ages.”

The girls’ fathers, Bill Wittstruck and Marlin Magstadt, raced against each other in the 1980s, and got their daughters involved in the sport.

Thunder Valley Dragways opens back up in late spring.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.