Large, talented Kernel track and field team approaches new season
Weather has limited opportunities early in the year but excitement has not been dampened
MITCHELL — There are two themes emerging early in the season for the Mitchell High School track and field program.
One, the program has 50 returning letterwinners between the boys and girls programs. And No. 2, they have a large number of multi-sport athletes who are participating this year.
Considering those two elements, coach Deb Thill is both pleased with the makeup of this year’s team and its outlook for 2023.
“We are really enjoying this season as a coaching staff, because these kids know our expectations,” Thill said. “We have our entire coaching staff back and that’s going to be helpful. … The kids have been doing amazing. They’re respectful, they’re responsible and they’re putting forth great effort.”
The team has been in practice since Feb. 27 but remains itching to compete. The Kernels hit the track at the Dan Lennon Invitational in Vermillion on March 27 and then had the April 1 ESD Indoor Meet in Brookings canceled due to the weather conditions around the state.
“We’ve all been very anxious to get started and start competing because we want to get out there and see what our full potential is,” senior Lizzie Tyler said.
Mitchell’s girls roster includes Tyler, who won the 400-meter race at Dan Lennon meet, one of a handful of experienced sprinters on the team. She’s joined by fellow seniors Brooke Bartscher and Claire Hegg. Other top track athletes to watch include Lainey Forst, Keyana Kelley, Carsyn Weich, Mia Mullenmeister, Ava Brannan and Addie Siemsen. Tyler, Hegg, Forst and Weich teamed up to finish sixth in the 2022 distance medley relay in the Class AA state meet.
“I’m eager to see what we can do in the relays,” Tyler said. “We’ve got a lot of athletes that are going to give us a lot of different options and combinations in those races.”
Sidney Malde will be among the girls’ top hurdlers, while Emily Moody, Weich, Audrey Miller and Halle Haring will be athletes to watch in the jumping events. Lilly Young and Taylor DeJong are the team’s top throwers and Aubrey Gelderman will be participating in the pole vault. Young was 13th in the shot put in last year’s state meet, while DeJong was seventh at the Lennon in the shot put.
“We have the potential to be pretty good,” Thill said of the Kernels’ girls squad.
Gelderman, a sophomore, is expected to be Kernel girls leader with the pole vault, while Carter Harris leads the Kernel boys. Both were top-10 finishers in the pole vault event at the Dan Lennon meet.
“We went through a drought for about two or three years without a pole vault coach, and we have Jordan McKean leading the way with the coaching,” Thill said. “He does a great job and they’re going to keep getting better.”
Expect to see the Kernels have a presence in the javelin for the first time, as well, Thill said. Senior Bryce Palmer and Thadan Milliken-Auch had the boys top returning throws in that event from 2022, and Macey Linke is the top javelin returner for the Kernel girls.
“We haven’t really had much chance to practice it but I think we’re going to have some kids that can compete there,” she said.
On the boys side, Thill said she believes the relays will again be a strength for MHS. Dakota State track signee Lukas Bennett will be a sprinting threat and Jagger Tyler will be among the team’s top runners, as well.
A potential star for the Kernels could be freshman Alexier Padilla, who was the ESD middle school champion at 400 meters a year ago for Mitchell and started with a second-place finish at the Lennon meet in the 400-meter dash.
Hunter Patton and Elijah Schroeder will lead the Kernels in the distance running events, Nathan McCormick and A.J. Siemsen will be in action in sprints, relays and field events and Connor Singrey and Trevon Austell will be leaders to watch in the hurdles and relays. Abe Gunnare is expected to excel in the middle distance races. In the field events, Northern State commit Treyson Schultz in the triple and long jump and Lincoln Bates in the high jump are expected to lead the way.
After finishing ninth the last two years in the 300-meter hurdles at the state meet, Palmer said improving upon that finish is his goal for 2023.
“That's been my race for the last few years and I’ve been stuck at ninth place,” he said. “So improving on that is my big goal and then I want to help this team have some success and improve our times.”
Palmer added he’s excited to see what the team is capable by the end of the season on Memorial Day weekend for the state meet in Sioux Falls.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys coming up,” Palmer said. “I think it’s going to be exciting to see what this team can do. We have kids that are ready to take that opportunity on this team.”