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Sports: Duling going for four first-place finishes at Class A state track meet

GREGORY -- Alexa Duling was looking for a fourth event to try early in the track season. The Gregory junior standout was already having a large amount of success in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and wanted to add to her repertoire. On the r...

GREGORY -- Alexa Duling was looking for a fourth event to try early in the track season.

The Gregory junior standout was already having a large amount of success in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and wanted to add to her repertoire.

On the recommendation from Gregory head girls' track coach Jamie Keiser, Duling started giving hurdles a try.

"I already had my three events and I was looking for a fourth just so I could push myself," Duling said. "I tried hurdles during my freshman year and I bit it on the last hurdle. But I was determined to get that fourth event this year and it happened to work out really well. I started running the 100-meter hurdles about the third meet of the season."

Duling not only qualified for the 100, 200 and 400 at this week's Class A state track meet in Sioux Falls, but she's also qualified in her new favorite event, the 100 hurdles.

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Duling has the best time in the 100 hurdles in Class A going into state with a 15.02.

"She's really been coming on in the hurdles," Keiser said. "When she started practicing she went over the hurdles once and it looked so fluid. She had no training, which is amazing. Her times have been coming down ever since. In my mind, the hurdles and the 400-meter dash are her two strongest events."

Duling is one of the top short-distance runners in the state and is in the top two in Class A, along with Vermillion's Alicia Brown. According to the South Dakota High School Activities Association track Web site, Duling is tied for the best time headed into state in the 100 (12.30), second-best in the 200 (25.80) and best in the 400 (57.60).

Duling's personal-bests in each are a 12.24 in the 100, 25.7 in the 200 and 57.57 in the 400. Duling set her personal-bests in the 100 and 200 last year, but hasn't surpassed those yet this season.

"I have tied my personal-best in the 100, but I haven't got to the 200 one yet. I've been close. My best event is the 400, though," she said. "It's the most challenging one for me personally because you have to sprint so hard when your body's aching just for that one lap. It definitely feels good to run a good 400 time."

Going up against Brown in the 200 and 400 is something that Duling is already relishing. Last year, Duling took home first in the 100, but took second to Brown in the 200. During that time, Duling was battling a hip flexor. This year, she's battling shin splint pain in both legs.

But she feels more prepared this year to take on Brown, whom she says she has a "friendly rivalry" with.

"The 200 and 400 are going to be interesting races," said Duling, who hasn't made her choice of where she's going to attend college. "I'm feeling pretty good about the hurdles and the 100, but I'm sitting behind her in the 200 and I'm just above her in the 400. It's going to be tough, but I feel pretty confident that I could get four golds this weekend.

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"I think what sets me apart is that when I walk on the track I realize what I have to do. I have confidence in myself and I believe in myself. That's what has made the difference all year for me."

Keiser said the fact that Duling is much healthier this season is also a big reason for her success.

"Last year she ran hurt and still won the 100," Keiser said. "This year, she's healthier. This weekend we're hoping we can get through prelims on Friday and go on to Saturday. It's going to be hard, but it's possible she could win all four events. I think the 100 hurdles and 100 are her best bets. I'm banking on three firsts and one second, but it could go either way.

"Alexa's very strong mentally. She knows she can do it. Alexa's gunning for Alicia and I'm sure Alicia knows that."

You can more than make a case that Duling could win all four events. At the Region 7A meet last week, she took first in all four. Brown, who has the best 100-meter dash time in the state but won't compete in the event, has times of 25.50 in the 200 and a 58.10 in the 400.

Duling, who is first cousins with Colome standout hurdler Mitch Swartz, said it would be nothing new to her to win four events at a meet. However, winning all four at state would be a bit different.

"I've come away with four wins at a lot of meets," she said. "But, I've never done it at a meet like state."

Anything's possible.

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