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Top speed: MHS boys 4x100-meter relay team after records, titles

If you are watching the Mitchell High School track and field team's boys 4x100-meter relay team, don't blink. The Kernels' top relay team races around the track in seconds.

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Mitchell's Barry Browning runs in the 100-meter dash during a track meet last year at Joe Quintal Field. Browning runs the opening leg of Mitchell's 4x100-meter relay team, which set the school record and currently has the third-best time in the state. Running on the team with Browning are Reed Overweg, Courtney Miller and Spencer Neugebauer. (Republic file photos)

If you are watching the Mitchell High School track and field team's boys 4x100-meter relay team, don't blink. The Kernels' top relay team races around the track in seconds.

"It feels like it's over in a snap of the fingers," said senior Reed Overweg, who runs the second leg on the team. "It's a fun race to run."

Overweg, along with Barry Browning, Courtney Miller and Spencer Neugebauer, have already etched their names in the MHS record book. The sprint relay team set a new school record with a season-best time of 43.70 seconds on Tuesday at the Yankton Invite. The mark broke a record set in 2012 by Justin Greenway, Jade Miller, Nick Kummer and Jason Greenway (43.8).

"That's great, being first and I enjoy having my name up there," said Browning, a junior who runs the opening leg of the race. "We are fast guys."

But being fast isn't enough for what this team wants to accomplish. The foursome has eyes on the state's top prize.

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"The long-term goal is to come home with the gold after state," Overweg said. "We are all pretty dedicated to it and we are running as fast as we can, but our handoffs are still raw."

While the team hasn't lost a race in four meets this season, two teams currently stand in the Kernels way. Rapid City Central has the top 4x100 time (43.30) in the state, while Sioux Falls Lincoln has the second-best time (43.60). Mitchell holds the third-fastest time (43.7) and the Kernels topped the Patriots in the 4x100 on Thursday at the Corn Palace Relays.

MHS track and field head coach Joe Shepardson describes the sprint relay team as only "scratching the surface" early in the season. He said more practice and more experience will continue to correlate to lower times.

"They aren't just running for themselves, they are running for each other now. That makes them run even harder," Shepardson said. "Their confidence is growing. They are really excited to see what they can do."

Individually, Neugebauer, who runs the anchor leg of the race, has the team's top 100 time of 10.9 seconds, while Browning, Miller and Overweg have each provisionally qualified for the 100 with times of 11.20.

"Just because you are in first, you can't slow down," said Miller, who runs the third leg on the team. "Open 100's are always fun between us, just to see who is faster that day."

All four runners ran on the 4x200 team last year, but this is their first full season running the 4x100 together. The team set the second-best 4x200 time in school history (1:31.13) last year and only trail Rapid City Central (1:31.50) for the top mark in the state this season.

Overweg said along with bigger goals in the 4x100, the team has big expectations with the 4x200, including breaking the MHS record which has stood since 1971 (1:30.30.).

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Handoffs magnified

For a race that is over in less than a minute, four key exchanges usually decides the winner. The Kernels have learned just how important the handoff is. At the Corn Palace Relays, despite still winning the race, one unperfect handoff harmed the Kernels' chances of achieving a faster time.

"You have to have good handoffs, that's what makes it," Miller said. "You want to get the right number of steps so you take off at the right time. You want them right where you want them to be when you take off. Just take off and go."

There is more than meets the eye in a relay team handoff. And in the 4x100, the exchange of the baton becomes more of an art. Two runners have to have exact timing to hand the baton off without either runner slowing down.

"I believe if we get all of our handoffs down and not mess up, we could win state," Browning said.

Overweg said the group could possibly knock off a full second on their time as the season progresses.

"We are fast and we're pushing each other to be faster," Overweg said. "That's been key."

The state meet is set for for May 26 and 27 in Sioux Falls. That gives the Kernels more than a month to keep working towards lowering their times.

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"To get those relays a little better is more practice," Shepardson said. "It's as simple as that."

Mitchell competes at the Pierre Invite on Friday in Pierre.

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