Once an annual event for nearly seven decades, Mitchell High School is just glad to be able to host the Corn Palace Relays for a change.
Often the lone track and field event of the spring hosted by the Kernels, the Corn Palace Relays are slated to be held Saturday for the first time since 2017, when the event had to take place on a Thursday due to Easter.
Of course the meet and season were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while a pair of mid-April snowstorms blasted away 2018 and 2019 opportunities, including a storm that dumped 16 inches of snow in Mitchell in 2018.
Saturday’s Corn Palace Relays will be the first track meet held at Mitchell since the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet on May 11, 2019, and the third high school meet hosted since the district renovated Joe Quintal Field three years ago.
“A lot of schools have their meets and you have your date and if you get to have it then great. If not, you just kind of lose it,” MHS activities director Cory Aadland said. “There’s not really an opportunity to reschedule much because you kind of have the schedule set with the number of meets you want to go to and the amount of days off you want.”
Early-season track meets like the Corn Palace Relays put hosts in a pickle. Schools in the northern part of South Dakota lean on better weather in the south and unpredictable weather often makes moving the meet back a few weeks irrelevant.
Scheduling around other meets across the state is also a significant challenge, as many schools like Mitchell face the same scenario. For example, if the Kernels wanted to move the meet a week later, they would not be able to compete in the Greenway Relays, another annual event. Meanwhile, the Howard Wood Dakota Relays are two weeks later and the Yankton First Dakota Relays the following weekend before infringing upon region meets.
While moving the Corn Palace Relays to a safer date is difficult, Aadland has also considered increasing the current field, which will bring 17 teams to Mitchell this weekend.
“We’ve added a couple teams this year and we’re looking to add schools when they want to, but it depends on what their schedules look like,” Aadland said. “The idea of moving it is really tough to do because finding a weekend when someone else doesn’t have a meet is tough to do. You can move to a date that works better for you and not have anyone come.”
Since the Corn Palace Relays can be the only home meet of the season, it takes on greater significance for parents and fans, who would otherwise have to make at least an hour’s drive to see kids compete.
Aadland has incorporated triangulars into the schedule in the past, but it once again becomes difficult to find participating schools and throws a wrench into practice schedules. Because training schedules adequate recovery time in order to reach peak performance by the end of the season, Mitchell does not compete in a meet more than once per week.
“If you’re competing too much then you’re not going to have some of those training days to try to get better,” Aadland said. “It’s a balance between competition, training days and rest days to try to keep those kids healthy and work up to the end of the year when they’re peaking.”