An Insider's View of the State Track Meet


On the Track: A View from the Pressbox

With a prelims 400-meters clocking of 47.54, Freeman senior sprinter Brennan Schmidt put a buzz into a crowded O'Harra Stadium in Rapid City on day one of the South Dakota Track and Field Championships.

In the 109th boys state track and field championships dating to 1906, and including Howard Wood and any other track meet in South Dakota, no high school prep had run a 400 meter faster.

In the aftermath of the race, those in attendance at the B meet on a Friday afternoon were awestruck as Schmidt's performance created an intoxicating buzz that comes with those moments that almost make time stand still. Schmidt's 400 clocking was a somewhat shocking result, through the senior had run in the 48's this season, and was expected to defend his 400-meter title as well as be a candidate for MVP. But others had tried and failed to crack the 32-year record of 48.2 set by Larry Miller of Freeman Academy in 1982.

Performances of high measure are always rampant at these championships. Whether viewing from the track, in the stands or making calls from the press box, the view is and has been remarkable and memorable. Recall, the performance of then freshman Cortney Dowling of Pierre who set the AA girls 400-meter record at 55.11 in 2013, cracking legendary Jill Theeler's (Mitchell) long-held mark. Or in Class B where current track and field coaches Everett Gebhart (SF Washington) and Ervin Gebhart (Elkton) were part of three record-setting relays (4x400 meter relay, 4x800-meter relay, and sprint medley relay) records that still stand in 1980 while running for Elkton. And, don't forget about the longest standing record on the book, established by Aberdeen Central's George Amundson in 1969 when he threw the discus 211-04, a mark that hasn't been approached in 46 years.

In the Booth: Behind the Scenes with the Voice of South Dakota Track & Field

Upstairs in the announcing booth, Greg Merrigan, the voice of South Dakota Track and Field, waited patiently for the Hy-Tek staffers to finalize/confirm the results. Just moments earlier, Merrigan did what he has done at state track meets since 1995. With his cohorts in the announcing and timing booth in the press box, Merrigan provided background on the race. That day and throughout the meet, Merrigan and company provided detail about athletes' performances prior and during the race, while breaking it down as races moved along.

In the press box, Merrigan and his crew were waiting out some anxious moments. In his mind, the swiftness of relaying information is critical with new events starting almost immediately.

While staff viewed the Hy-Tek picture on a computer, the audience buzz was rampant as it would on a constant basis during the two days of track and field championships.

Within a couple of minutes, Merrigan was told the result and back on the mic. \

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Brennan Schmidt's time is a new Class B record and he has broken the state of South Dakota prep 400-meter mark held by Larry Miller of 48.2. He has broken a 32-year old record and clocked the fastest 400 meters ever in South Dakota," said Merrigan.

That moment of achievement and many others like it -- past, present and in the future-- are what have been a defining feature of the state track meet. Whether it was Merrigan deftly relaying the verdicts, or Jim Burt years ago, the performances on the track have always provided energy that never stops at state track and field championships. It is what keeps parents and fans keep coming back for more and more.

While the drama happens on the track and on the field, the largest of events and information requires preparation and constant research before and during track competitions. It is part of the job that the announcing team understands and takes as a responsibility.

"One of our goals at the state meet is to build knowledge among the fans for the athletes that are competing. These athletes have worked hard to get to this point, and giving them their due, builds support from the fans in the stands. Reciting facts and bits of trivia about athletes is certainly not an original idea that I came up with," said Merrigan of Vermillion, S.D.

"I have attended the Drake Relays in Des Moines for over 41 years. One thing stood out more than any competition on the track at my first Drake, the legendary public address announcer Jim Duncan standing track-side and reciting a litany of facts about athletes competing. I was mesmerized and have tried to emulate him ever since. He made the meet so much more enjoyable for the fans," he said.

According to Merrigan, the effort to accumulate data on athletes has evolved from a several large binders full of results and newspaper clippings to use of the internet and storing data on a laptop. The internet allows collection of results from meets all over the state and the opportunity to read media accounts from members of the state-wide media, noted Merrigan, citing information culled from newspapers on region meets, Howard Wood Relays, Corn Palace Relays, Rapid City's Track O'Rama, cross country championships and more.

"Our announcing team, and it really is a team, consists of Mike Holt, Joe Van Goor and Dan Genzler. Throw in the timing (Eric Van Laecken in Sioux Falls) folks and scoreboard operators (Kevin Brady in Sioux Falls and Lance Pearson in Rapid City) and we can coordinate an enjoyable meet. We typically work the Class B meet on Friday's of State Meet weekend and then the finals on Saturday," added Merrigan.

"We work late into the night on Friday prepping for the finals. Each race starts with a start list on the scoreboard, followed by introductions of the athletes. During the race we try and keep the crowd informed on leaders, record times, and in the case of relays, individual runners. As soon as the race is over, we post results and team points and then it is quickly on to the next race. We also try and keep fans informed on what is going on with field events. Sometimes these events go unnoticed during a meet but they are as equally important as the races on the track. It is also great to see athletes get recognition on the awards stand after competing and folks like Jeff Lukens, Alex Heinert, Kevin Phillips and Craig Mattick do a great job," he said.

Schmidt blazes to three individual titles

While the announcing team was kept busy, the stars of the weekend were the student-athletes on the track and in the field. Whether viewed in the press box or in the stands, performances of prep athletes and teams stood tall with 17 records falling.

In the 2015 meet, Schmidt would go on to break state meet records in not only the 400 meters but both the 100-meters (10.93) and 200-meters dash (21.99) while anchoring Freeman 4x400-meter relay accounted for 32.5 points as Freeman (50 points) won finished second to Platte-Geddes (60.5 points) in the B Boys title race. In total, Schmidt, who took home the 400 meters gold medal for best time in all three classes, accounted for 65 percent of the points scored by Freeman.

Standouts Emerge

Will Lauer, Sioux Falls Lincoln

At the AA meet, standouts performances included Will Lauer's sub nine minute performance (8:58.49) in the 3,200 meters as the Sioux Falls Lincoln senior became just the fourth student-athlete in state history to meet that standard. He broke Addison Dehaven's (Brookings) mark of 9:00.19 set in 2013.

Another eye-popping effort came from Rapid City Central's Josh Dotson, who went 47-03 in the triple jump which was the fifth best ever in South Dakota while establishing a new record in Class AA as he cracked Todd Kolden's (Aberdeen Central) mark of 47-00 set in 1979, some 35 years ago.

Tori Glazier, Custer

In the A Meet, freshman Tori Glazier of Custer had a record and her third straight 800 meters title with a Class A record 2:15.12. Her time was just .12 faster than sophomore Macy Heinz's 2:15.24 which broke the B record at the B meet and gained the Custer freshman a gold medal. Glazier picked up four titles and part of two more records. She also won the 1,600 meter run and was part of two winning relays, including the record-setting sprint medley group, which broke the 2014 mark of Sioux Falls Christian (4:14.72) with a clocking of 4:13.23.

Macy Heinz, Ipswich

Macy Heinz was the Class B track MVP after dominating four races (100, 200, 400 and 800) with her clocking of 2:15.17 setting a B mark (Andrea Warnke, Bonesteel-Fairfax, 2003, 2:15.24) in the 800-meter run.

Heinz has now picked up 15 medals, including 13 individual titles and she is just a sophomore. No other athlete in meet history has ever won four MVP honors and now Heinz has the opportunity for two more. Among her 13 individual titles is the fact that she has won a state title at every distance from 100 meters to 1,600 meters after she won the 200-meters on Saturday.

Her performances helped paced Ipswich (98 points) to a fourth straight team title, which had never previously been accomplished in Class B. Armour and Chester won three straight titles. It also put a wrap on a season that included Heinz's winning the 800 Special Event title at the Howard Wood Relays.

Lauren Sokolowski, Irene-Wakonda

Another notable accomplishment was a fourth straight hurdles title by Irene-Wakonda' Lauren Solkolowski, who set a Class B meet record in the prelims of 14.64 (Rhonda Sheffield, 14.80, 1996) and had the best time in all three classes, earning the Gold Medal. Also of note, Sara Heyn of Chester was the field MVP after winning both the long jump and triple jump.

STM Dominates A: First since Spearfish to win dual titles

In Class A, St. Thomas More put the hammer down and rolled to state in both the boys and girls team races. It is rare when a team sweeps both the girls and boys titles, happening just 14 times, including six times by Rapid City Stevens. STM became the first A school to win both the boys and girls titles since 1987 when Spearfish won dual titles. Just two B schools Armour (1981) and Eureka (2004) have dual titles. Aside from Stevens, Rapid City Central won dual titles in 1991 and 1994 and Lincoln won dual titles in 1974 under the old two class system and again in 1975 and 1976 in the three class structure.

STM's girls team, which was seventh after day one of the meet, cruised to a team title, racking up 108 points, or 39 more than runner-up Madison, by dominating sprints, hurdles and relays with individual titles from Shannon Duffy in the 100-meter hurdles and Delaney Carlson (pictured below)

in the 200-meter dash. Carlson also finished second the 100 meters. Custer's Tori Glazier was the track MVP after winning two individual titles and being part of two winning relays. The girls field MVP was Mackenzie Huber of Clark/Willow Lake who captured both the shot put and discus titles.

On the boys side, STM boys won their first-ever title as they rolled to a crown with 121.5 points or 61 more than runner-up West Central (60.5). The margin of victory was the largest among all three classes. Not bad performance in earning their first title. On Saturday, STM scored in all but one event as they moved up the board quickly. Sophomore Luke Julian captured both the 1,600 meter run and 800-meter run while anchoring the winning 4x800 meter relay by the Cavaliers. STM also took the 4x100 and 4x200 meter relays.

A sidebar on the A Boys competition, despite their domination, STM did not claim any MVP honors.

Wes Dvorak (pictured below en route to winning the 300 Meter Hurdles) was the MVP on the track with three titles for Ethan-Parkston

as he won both the 100 meter and 300 meter crowns and also took home the long jump title. The field MVP was Ephram Albrecht of Redfield/Doland, who won the triple jump.

Roosevelt, Stevens take AA crowns

In the AA Girls competition, Rapid City Stevens was back on top with their 19th title, although they had to fight off Brandon Valley by 2 ½ points, 105.5 to 103. By finishing the 4x400 meter relay, the Raiders clinched the championship, which is their 17th in the past 20 years.

While the battle for the team crown went down to the final race, Class AA saw some special performances individually, including Emma Stewart of Yankton win the field MVP after winning the long jump and finishing second in the triple jump.

Then there was Jasmyne Cooper (pictured below, followed by 1600m runner-up Kendra Dysktra of Rapid City Stevens)

of Sioux Falls Lincoln, who stirred the masses gathered at the meet. Like Glazier, just a freshman, Cooper was part of the Patriots' winning sprint medley relay while capturing titles in both the 800 (2:12.72) and 1,600 meters (5:09.52). Her clockings in the 800 and 1,600 were the best among all three classes and earned her a pair of gold medals.

In the Class AA competition, Sioux Falls Roosevelt displayed a deep and balanced squad to win the program's first title since 2000. With 129.5 points, the Rough Riders put up the most points by any team in any class and turned back the defending champs and cross-city rival Sioux Falls Lincoln, which won it all in 2014.

Roosevelt was led by Mayuen Akok (pictured below)

, who won the 300 meter hurdles, finished second in the 110 meter hurdles and anchored the winning 4x400 meter relay. In total, the Rough Riders won 4-of-5 of the relays as Michael Jones, Taryn Christion and Chase Vinatieri were members of the winning 4x100 and 4x200 meter relay squad. They also won the 4x800 meter relay while Christion (2nd, 100) and Vinatieri (3rd, 200 meters) placed high in the sprints.

The boys field MVP was Dotson with his stellar effort in winning the triple jump. While Akok was a candidate for track MVP,

Jacob Simmons of Sturgis (pictured below)

was dominant in claiming a second straight MVP. Simmons claimed both the 800 and 1,600-meter crowns and anchored Sturgis Brown to a sprint medley relay crown. To top it off, Simmons set a meet record by clocking an 800-meter time of 1:52.38 (Alex Waddell, SF Washington, 2010, 1:53.94).