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With new program, Witte tasked to build Kernel athletes

Eric Witte has been hired as Mitchell High School's full-time strength and conditioning coach, a new position for the school. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Eric Witte gets to start from scratch at Mitchell High School.

For the 27 year old, the unique and exciting chance to build the Kernels' strength and conditioning program from the ground floor fires him up each day he comes to work.

"To be able to work alongside athletes and coaches and to get them to be the best they can be, that's the big motivation for me," Witte said.

Witte will be employed by Avera's local sports medicine group and is contracted through MHS, similar to the athletic trainers and physicians that are available to athletes. He will be available to student-athletes in grades 7-12 in all sports.

Mitchell Activities Director Cory Aadland said Witte's hire is a "game-changer" as the school moves to a more unified approach to its weight room and conditioning work. Only a handful of other schools in the state, primarily in Sioux Falls and at Aberdeen Central High School, have a similar position.

"He's going to provide a single, overarching year-round view of our entire department," Aadland said. "Because of the nature of high school sports and the number of shared kids, our focus will be on developing athletes who are bigger, faster and stronger."

Witte, who was already an assistant football coach for the Kernels and previously worked with athletes at his alma mater Dakota Wesleyan University, said the goal is simply to affect as many potential athletes as possible, regardless of their status on an athletic team or what grade they're in.

"The main thing here is to give the kids the confidence to be here, to let them know that you can change your athletic prowess right here," said Witte, standing in the weight room at the high school. "There's no varsity or freshman or JV here. It's all about getting better. It's kind of a level playing field and if you take it seriously and put in the work, you can make a big impact."

Aadland said he expects having a consistent off-season program for all sports.

"He's worked with our different programs some already," Aadland said. "He's going to be important and we want our coaches to make sure they get their kids in front of him."

Another focus will be acceleration training for speed and quickness, which will fire up later this spring and summer. And regardless of the type of talent or training, safety is an emphasis.

"I always like to think about having kids engaged in sports is good, no matter what," Witte said. "From there, they're going to sprout. More well-rounded, better developed athletes is the goal."

A Huron native, Witte joked there's still a few Kernels who believe he has to prove his loyalty. He said, given that the program is being newly built, there will be a few bumps along the way but hopes there's a very solid program with noticeable progress in a year's time.

"I'm a really passionate guy, really excited for this," Witte said. "We want this to be the best program it can be right here."