LAKE ANDES — Tyler Swanson tried to compete in every sport he felt he could excel in when growing up.

He remembers toppling the competition in elementary track meets, and in sixth grade, he found his event on the track. Swanson grew into a 6-foot-6 high jumper, who found the same success on the Andes Central/Dakota Christian track and field team that he did in elementary school.

The Andes Central High School student strived to be a familiar face, one people expected to win the high jump whenever they saw him. Before COVID-19 wiped away Swanson’s final track and field season, he felt that confidence could have shown at the state track meet.

“It’s really disappointing,” Swanson said. “I had high hopes going into this season with state track. Being able to qualify and maybe even try to win this year.”

Swanson entered the season as one of the presumed favorites to try to take down fellow senior and Ipswich jumper Maxwell Geditz. He took third place at last year’s state meet with a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches. Geditz won at 6-4, while second-place Jacob Bielmaier graduated.

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“I did some looking around and I found that out,” Swanson said. “I got really hopeful because he only beat me by (two inches) and I really felt confident I would be able to top him.”

Andes Central/Dakota Christian high jumper Tyler Swanson had his senior year cut short due to COVID-19. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Andes Central/Dakota Christian high jumper Tyler Swanson had his senior year cut short due to COVID-19. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Now, instead of walking around the track with teammates, he’s barely seen his friends since in-person school was cancelled. The year he expected to be filled with memories and extra activities has vanished, turning into work and lounging at home.

It’s the opposite of last year’s career-defining Region 6B meet when Swanson, Daaron Tronvold and Clifford Johnson swept the field events for ACDC. In a personal essay written to The Daily Republic, he detailed the magnitude and importance of that meet.

“It always felt good to walk around the track meet with your group of friends that were also the good athletes winning the events,” Swanson wrote. “... Between the three of us, we got first place in all available field events. That was the moment that really defined why I competed in track. Something we will always remember about our high school track days.”

Swanson won’t compete in the high jump again. He’ll attend Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown next year in hopes of becoming an aviation mechanic.

He wishes he could have competed for a state title. Instead, he’s left with the memories of walking around the track with his friends after a successful jump. And as a sophomore when he won a meet at Avon on his first jump at 5-10, but leaped so hard he missed the mat on his landing.

“I won the meet with one jump and I jumped over the mat and landed on my back,” Swanson said. “... The people running that event, every time they see me, they’re like, ‘Hey, aren’t you that boy who missed the mat. We’re so sorry.’ ”

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Swanson also detailed the abrupt end to his senior year in his own words:

The virus affected my senior year and a lot of other seniors in a few ways. Starting off early, it took away the proms that I was planning on attending. It took away the chance to make more memories with the people that I have grown up with. I do not have the chance at a grand celebration of the accomplishment of finishing high school with a large graduation or even an open house for family and friends. If anything good could come out of this, I am sure all the seniors are glad that we have no finals this year and did not have to complete as much school work, and don’t have to stress out as much by having so much work to do.

I viewed track more as an individual sport. I wanted to be seen by others as the best I could be. While doing events, you usually had the whole crowd watching while you did your event because you were the only one competing. This was a way to show off your talent. I strived to be the guy that everybody knew was going to win. When you show up to a track meet you can usually look around and see who is competing and can tell who the better athletes are and who is probably going to win. It always felt good to walk around the track meet with your group of friends that were also the good athletes winning the events. I remember the time walking around with Daaron Tronvold and Clifford Johnson after we just swept the field events at regions last year. Between the three of us, we got first place in all available field events. That was the moment that really defined why I competed in track. Something we will always remember about our high school track days.