The Mitchell High School track and field team wants to finish strong.
The Kernels have 12 boys and 15 girls competing in five different individual events and five relays apiece at the Class AA Track and Field Championships, beginning today at Brandon Valley High School.
For Mitchell head coach Joe Shepardson, the state meet is an opportunity for his athletes to post their best times and distances of the season in order to finish the year on a high note.
"We've got a tremendous group of kids," Shepardson said. "They are extremely hard workers. They've put a lot of time and energy into the season and their training. ... If the kids finish the season with a (personal record), then I couldn't be happier for them."
For Carly Haring, it's a chance to win her fourth state championship in five years in the high jump, but it won't be an easy task. Her main competition is Watertown's Alayna Falak, who Haring has battled for most of the season.
Falak and Haring are tied for the top jump in the state this season at 5 feet, 8 inches. The pair have competed in nearly every meet this season, and while they both cleared 5-8 at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays on May 4, Falak took the win with fewer attempts.
Last season, it was Haring that beat Falak on attempts to win the state championship. It is also Haring's final chance to break a 26-year-old state record of 5 feet, 9 1/4 inches held by Pierre's Beth Wahl.
"When it comes down to that 11 a.m. time, she's going to get her high jump face on and she's going to turn into the gigantic competitor that she is," Shepardson said. "I'm just anxious to watch her compete. She's just so much fun to watch and we're hoping for the best."
Sophomore Ryley Johansen also has a chance to reach the podium in the boys high jump. He is seeded 10th, but his top jump of 6-2 is shared with seven other competitors and four more have a top jump of 6-4.
Payton Olson enters the triple jump seeded 11th (41-8.75) and is less than one foot from moving into the top eight. Sutton Carpenter is 12th in the pole vault with the same height (13-3) as five other vaulters. Isaac Kitchens is 10th in the 110-meter hurdles (16.09) and has a chance to advance to the finals.
The Kernels have three entries in the girls 100-meter dash-Caitlin Ostbye, McKenzie Norton and Aliyah Howard-who are seeded 16th, 17th and 21st, respectively. Meanwhile, Amy Uher is 12th in the high jump (5-0) and is potentially one inch from moving into a spot on the podium.
"We've got a task ahead of us," Shepardson said. "We've got to cut some time and have perfect handoffs (in relays). We've got to be able to run our best and everything has to come together completely for us to get into that top eight."
Field events begin at 9:30 a.m. and track events at 10 a.m. today in Brandon.