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Rapid City Stevens’ Simeon Birnbaum continues to cover new ground as South Dakota's best distance runner

South Dakota’s preeminent distance runner Simeon Birnbaum continues to add to his record-breaking resume after taking the state and nation by storm earlier this year.

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Simeon Birnbaum races in the boys 3,200-meter race during the 97th Annual Howard Wood Dakota Relays at Howard Wood Field on May 6, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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RAPID CITY – Rapid City Stevens star distance runner Simeon Birnbaum continues to add to his record-breaking high school running career.

Coming off a season in which he won two individual state titles in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter dash, as well as helping his team win the 4x800 relay at the state meet in 2021, Birnbaum came into this year’s track season somehow more motivated than ever before.

The season began with the junior competing at the Arcadia Invitational in California for the one-mile run on April 9, where Birnbaum broke the South Dakota state record for the fastest mile time at 4 minutes, 7.88 seconds. Competing against some of the nation’s top high school athletes, he rose to the occasion, beating a record that had been held in South Dakota for more than 40 years and finished third overall in what was his most nerve-racking race he’d been a part of.

He followed that milestone up with an all-time state performance in the boys 3,200-meter race at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays. As he gained a 30-meter gap from the next closest runner in the first lap and ended the race with more than 100 meters separating him from the second place finisher, Birnbaum set the state record and moved into the top-10 in the nation with an 8 minute and 55.22 second finish in the 3,200-meter event.

After crossing the finish line, Birnbaum was ecstatic about accomplishing this milestone in his home state.

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“I had in mind that I could do this ever since the Arcadia Invitational back in early April,” Birnbaum said. “I barely got the state record there and my next big meet was Howard Wood, so I said, 'Why not go for the two-mile state record. … Running in California is cool and all, but it was great to break this record in South Dakota and at a great field like Howard Wood. It makes this record a little bit more special.”

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Simeon Birnbaum relishes in the moment after winning the 3,200-meter race during the 97th Annual Howard Wood Dakota Relays at Howard Wood Field on May 6, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

It didn’t surprise the junior in the slightest that he was breaking South Dakota state records or making his mark across the nation, after the way the cross country season during the fall of 2021. Birnbaum finished first in three separate meets during the cross country season, including a first-place finish at the Class AA state meet on October 23.

After the season concluded, Birnbaum placed eighth in the Nike Heartland Regional Championships on November 14 and finished 16th out of 150 of the nation’s fastest 5000-meter runners at the Eastbay Midwest Region Cross Country Championships on November 27. Once he understood where he stood nationally, Birnbaum felt it was nothing he couldn’t accomplish.

“I would say my breakthrough races happened this cross country season after I raced in the Eastbay Midwest Region and the Nike Heartland Regional,” Birnbaum said. “I finished pretty high up and ran better than I ever had before. I always knew I was better on the track so I put in the work and I had everything I needed to make it to this point.”

Due to the track season getting canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Birnbaum only competed in cross country events from the end of the 2019 track season until March 2021.

As he was also transitioning from transferring from Rapid City Christian to Rapid City Stevens, not much of his training changed throughout that difficult time, but in fact he became better on the track, competing against a new environment of athletes.

“Being on a bigger team and having more guys to train with makes the process a little more fun and that has been translating into my performances,” Birnbaum said. "But nothing’s too special with my training these past few years, in my opinion. I’ve just been able to stay injury free and that comes with knowing my body and knowing my limits. I might not run as many miles as the top guys in the nation, but I’m hardly ever hurt and consistency is key.”

As Birnbaum does everything in his grasp to remain consistent and get the most out of himself each and every day, he continuously sets new goals he wants to accomplish and with the state meet less than two weeks ago, he’s aiming at adding more state titles to his already impressive resume.

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“The next step is the state meet for me,” Birnbaum said. “I’d like to have four state titles and a team title. I want the most titles possible for the Raiders.”

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Simeon Birnbaum celebrates with the Rapid City Stevens' fan section after winning the 3,200-meter race during the 97th Annual Howard Wood Dakota Relays at Howard Wood Field on May 6, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Related Topics: TRACK AND FIELD
Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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