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Cold weather takes a break, allowing track and field to get up and running in South Dakota

Well into April, some South Dakota schools are completing their first outdoor meets of the season

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From left, Hanson's Sutton Dewald and McCook Central/Montrose's Joe Loudenberg and Trey Claussen sprint during the 100-meter dash during the Flyer Invitational track meet on Thursday, April 21, 2022 in Freeman.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic
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FREEMAN, S.D. — Canceled track meets in April come with the territory of spring sports in South Dakota.

But with the weather of heavy winds and cold temperatures finally breaking this week, track and field teams in the Mitchell area were appreciating the chance to stretch their legs and compete outdoors.

Thursday’s Flyer Invitational in Freeman marked the first time during the outdoor season that McCook Central/Montrose had completed a full outdoor meet this season. MCM head boys track and field coach Shawn Flanagan said the Fighting Cougars competed on March 24 at the Mount Marty Indoor Meet as a tune-up for the season and then went most of four weeks without a full meet. MCM hosted its Rasmussen Relays in Salem on April 12 but had the end of the program cut off due to rainy conditions.

“You certainly appreciate the chances we’re getting now,” Flanagan said. “You don’t love being inside as much as we were, but it’s one of those things you can’t control.”

Howard was in the same situation on Thursday, completing its first outdoor meet of the season at the 16-team competition. Tigers’ track and field coach Landon Hammer noted that the entire state has found itself in the same situation due to the universal difficult conditions around the state.

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“I feel like it has influenced almost everyone in South Dakota. Here we are, over one month into the season and most schools have only been outside to one or two meets,“ Hammer said. “Usually, there might be one area of the state that is affected, but the rest are getting meets in. This year with this cold, windy spring weather we’ve had so far, everyone is on the same playing field trying to get to as many meets as they can in the last month of the season.”

Hammer said it has been difficult to keep athletes excited and motivated about the upcoming schedule when meets continue to fall off the calendar. He said the team has tried to have one fun activity as a team each week and tried to run some simulated meet-style practices when they’ve been able to get outside.

“We have some very talented runners, so trying to keep them on pace, and in shape has been a struggle,” Hammer said. “There is only so much you can do practicing inside every day, and it is easy for kids to get discouraged.”

With less access to outdoor practices, teams have been limited by space, working out in gyms or in school hallways. Most affected are the field events, Flanagan said, because jumpers are limited without landing pits to use.

There can also be a propensity to get shin splints when running on the basketball court. He said workouts indoors usually involve more plyometrics — the explosive speed and reactive training that helps build muscle power — because there’s less room to run around.

“We’re definitely behind where we would want to be, but we’ve got time,” Flanagan said. “You want to make sure you’re ramping up as the season goes on and be ready for late in the season.”

Even when the weather might be favorable for a track meet this year, bad luck has struck. Corsica-Stickney’s Jaguar Relays on April 19 were wiped out because Corsica had a water main break affecting the school.

Some schools have had luck getting into meets to make up for lost time. Thursday’s Flyer Invitational in Freeman was Colman-Egan’s fifth meet of the season and expected to be the third of the week. Chad Williamson, who coaches the Hawks’ boys team, said along with girls coach Julie Preheim, Colman-Egan tries to work around the weather as much as possible when it comes to getting meets back on the schedule.

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“You just look for places where you can compete or where they have room for you. You have to be flexible and make the most of your chances to compete,” Williamson said. “Everyone is building at this time of year. It’s just something you work through and our kids are pretty resourceful.”

Related Topics: TRACK AND FIELD
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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