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Sports: MHS looking to improve at conference track meet

The Mitchell High track team is at the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet today in Aberdeen looking to qualify as many athletes as it can to the Class AA state track meet later this month in Sioux Falls.

The Mitchell High track team is at the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet today in Aberdeen looking to qualify as many athletes as it can to the Class AA state track meet later this month in Sioux Falls.

The meet gets under way at 11:30 a.m. with field events at the newly-dedicated Al Sahli Track at Swisher Field. The running events begin at noon with the preliminaries for the 110- and 100-meter hurdles and 100-meter dashes. Finals will be held in the 3,200-meter relay. There will be a break about 1:30 p.m. and the finals in all events will start at 3 p.m. the meet will conclude at about 6:15 p.m. Pierre won the ESD track title for the boys last year and Watertown was the girls' champion.

According to MHS head coach Eric Palmer, Pierre's favored to win the boys' title again and Watertown and Yankton will battle it out for the girls' crown. The Pierre boys have well-known performers such as Travis Fitzke in distance runs, Mark Tetzlaff in hurdles and Jarrett Klinger in the sprints.

The Kernels have not performed well at the ESD meet the past several seasons. Palmer said he has spoken with his team about that very fact.

"We haven't performed well at all. It's been poor weather the last couple of years, but we've underperformed," Palmer said. "I'm looking for a big improvement this year for the guys and girls. We've basically had the same team for the last three years. Hopefully, we'll be more mature."

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MHS already has more state qualifiers than it did from a year ago.

On the boys' side, Brady Zimmerman has qualified in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and also in the long jump; Jesse Hanssen and Cade Hearnen have both qualified in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and Hanssen and Cody Christopherson have also qualified in the 400; Chase Olson has qualified in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles; Tyler Hill has qualified in the 400- and 800-meter dashes; Tyler and Turner Volesky have both qualified in the high jump; and every relay except the 4x800 has qualified.

On the girls' side, Shanna Iburg has qualified in the shot put; Caitlin Way has qualified in the shot and discus; Stephanie Uher and Kendell Smith both have qualified in the high jump; Tessa Dee has qualified in the 100-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash; Christine Kristensen has qualified in the triple jump; Amelia Ladd has qualified in the 200-meter dash; Kendra Knight has qualified in the 400-meter dash; Brittany Brickman has qualified in the 800-meter dash; and every relay event for the girls has qualified except for the 4x800.

"These are the best numbers we've had in the past two years for qualifiers," Palmer said. "But we're worried about having our best combinations in some of the relays. Not every athlete may compete in those events because we'll want to save them for relays to try and get a place. We have a better shot of placing in relays than in some of those other events."

Today for the boys, Palmer thinks Zimmerman, Olson and the sprint medley team have the best shot of placing highly. Both Zimmerman and Hill are important to Mitchell's relay success.

"We're going to try and rest a few kids in certain events," Palmer said. "We have some nicks and dings here and there. Both Tyler and Brady have some of those bumps and bruises. We'll hold them out in a couple of events to keep them fresh."

The Mitchell 1,600-meter relay team has the fourth-best time in Class AA with a 3:29.56.

Olson has the fourth-best time in the state so far in the 110-meter hurdles with a 14.90. In the 300-meter hurdles, he has the sixth-best time with a 41.00. But with athletes like Tetzlaff and Yankton's Jordan Smith and Tyrel Kook ahead of him in times, Olson may have to settle for a third- or fourth-place finish in those events today.

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"I know Chase is going to push himself," Palmer said of Olson. "He's got some good kids to beat. But Teztlaff is in his own world right now. He's ridiculous, especially in the 110s. If Chase has a good day, I'm sure he could catch Smith or Kool. They're not as insanely good as Teztlaff is."

Iburg has the fifth-best throw in Class AA so far with a 38-5. However, she and Way have begun to see their distances fall off since the beginning of the season.

"I still think Shanna and Caitlin will surprise some people," said Palmer. "They haven't been throwing their best lately, but it's just a matter of time before they break out of their slumps. I think one of them will breakout (today). They've been having some good practices."

Uher is tied for second-best height in the high jump this season with a 5-1. Palmer thinks she has a good shot of winning that competition today.

"The best high jumpers in the state are from Sioux Falls. A girl from Washington (Jenna Schmidt) has gone 5-7. We're certainly hoping Stephanie has a good day. She has as good of a shot of winning it than anybody," Palmer said.

In relays, Palmer has been most happy with the sprint medley. Last weekend at Howard Wood, the Kernels took 14th place with a 4:31.97.

"That's our best girls' relay right now," he said. "Our girls ran phenomenal at Howard Wood in that. It's going to be tough, but that's our best shot of placing high in a relay."

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