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Sports: Kimball relay tradition continues

KIMBALL -- There isn't any special training or anything in the water that's been the key component to the success of Kimball High's girls' relay teams over the years.

KIMBALL -- There isn't any special training or anything in the water that's been the key component to the success of Kimball High's girls' relay teams over the years.

According to Kiotes head track coach Lonnie Robinson, it's more about genes. The Kimball girls have won at least one relay event at the state meet for the past eight years.

"Even before I got here, Kimball had great middle-distance runners," said Robinson, who is in his eighth year at Kimball. "There's some blood there. The McGregors won some state titles and there are some really good bloodlines with the Konechnes as well. We just like to think we work hard and train hard during the season."

Last weekend at the 83rd Howard Wood Dakota Relays in Sioux Falls, Kimball took first place in the 4x800-meter relay with a time of 10:02.07. The Kiotes took second place in the sprint medley relay with a time of 4:26.72. Gayville-Volin won with a 4:18.84. Kimball was disqualified in the 4x2 race and the 4x4 wasn't run because of the severe weather that canceled the meet early on Saturday.

Making up the 4x8 team was eighth-grader Rachel Gaulke, junior Melissa Kroupa, senior Samantha Konechne and freshman Natalie Munger. Making up the sprint medley team was freshman Katie Talbott, Konechne, Gaulke and Munger.

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Konechne, a senior three-sport athlete, has been running in a relay event since she was an eighth-grader for the Kiotes. She was an alternate for relays as a seventh-grader. She's run with some of the best relay runners in recent history for Kimball, which includes Kindal Konechne, Megan Konechne, Anne Miedel, Abby Kroupa, Laura Benda and her sister, Cynthia.

"In Kimball, you just push yourself because there's a certain amount of pressure to be good in relay events," she said. "We have people that always follow the team and are at meets constantly. We have dedicated fans that are always there and rooting for you. Plus, it seems like we've all had siblings who have ran before and we want to keep that tradition alive. We just work hard."

If someone gets hurt, Robinson said there's always someone on call to fill in.

"We work hard in every relay event and we have real competition just to get on a relay team. Everybody pushes one another," Robinson said. "That really makes a difference. Most of the girls are out for volleyball, basketball, cross country, softball or swimming. We have a lot of year-round athletes. It seems like we can put a new kid in there if we wanted to and they could pick up the slack for somebody if they got hurt.

"Sam's a really solid senior for us. She's been doing this a long time and has been solid as a rock since an eighth-grader."

Konechne has been part of three straight 4x8 winners at the Class B state meet. Both Robinson and Konechne agreed that the 4x8 appears to be the team's best relay event this year. Last year at state, Kimball won the 4x8, took second in the 4x4 and third in the 4x1.

Konechne's hoping to add a fourth 4x8 team title to her list of achievements before her high school career ends.

"I'm crossing my fingers about that," she said. "We're improving in the sprint medley, and to get second at Howard Wood was pretty good. I'll be really sad when this all ends. I'll miss the competition against the other teams and I'll miss that feeling of really accomplishing something when you win a relay."

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As a seventh-grader, Konechne looked up to the older relay runners. Now, she's in the position of leadership.

"I was nervous back then," she said. "It was cool just to hang out with the older kids. They'd calm me down if I was nervous. Now, I'm the one doing the calming down. You just have to stay focused when you're running. It's a good feeling to know we've been this successful, though."

Robinson said Avon will be Kimball's biggest competition in the 4x8 and Colman-Egan will challenge the Kiotes in the 4x4. In the sprint medley, Gayville-Volin and Emma Erickson are the team to beat.

"Avon and Colman-Egan really push us and so does Gayville-Volin," Robinson said. "We talk about that in practice and we want to be as competitive with those teams as we can. We could be right there in a couple of events."

Nothing's changed.

arennecke@daily.mitchellrepublic.com

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