The word is out.
St. Thomas More could be poised for a return to the top of the podium in the girls Class A ranks, with the Cavalier boys continuing to build from last year’s coming out party.
But Spearfish and Custer could throw their hats in as contenders, too.
West Central of Hartford won last year’s Class A state girls championship. Madison, Sioux Falls Christian, Spearfish, St. Thomas More and Custer rounded out the top six.
“I’ve got high aspirations for the girls. They finished 14 points out of first last year. I really think we have a shot at the championship,” More second-year head coach Scott Benson said.
Ditto for Spearfish’s Aaron Nida and Craig Black of Custer.
“It should be an exciting year. I think we’ve got shots to compete at both the conference and at state on the podium,” Nida said.
“We’ve got a lot of strong young middle distance girls coming up this year. I’m excited for our girls. I think we’re going to have a lot of really good things this year especially in terms of our running,” Black said.
Benson is encouraged most by the participation level as the Cavaliers build for a run at the title this year as well as the future.
“Our numbers are up. We’ve got 70 kids out in a school of 200 students, 70 middle school kids out, too,” Benson said. “We’re mixing the middle schoolers with the high schoolers so they get a taste of what the program is like, and trying to develop an actual program here that’s going to be competitive for several years to come."
The More girls lose just one senior, middle distance runner Elise Twohy.
“We’ve got some young girls that are going to come in and hopefully fill her shoes,” Benson said.
Returning for the Cavaliers are 300-meter hurdles champion Corby White, also fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, and senior Stachia Reuwsaat, a 100-meter dash runner-up who posted the longest Class A long jump in the state last year at 18 feet, 5-1/2 inches,
Also back are senior Alexys Swedlund, the 400-meter runner-up, and 100 and 200 qualifier Delaney Carlson.
The Cavalier boys made something of a splash with a seventh-place finish last year at the state meet.
“That was kind of out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone expected that,” Benson said. “Last year it was real important for me to get the athletes to come out for track. For some reason the boys program has never really amounted to much.
“We got the basketball players and the football players to come out and it really made a difference. We got a lot of those kids back out."
Returning for More are hurdlers Jay Cooper and Witt Dobesh, and sprinter Aidan Goetzinger.
Custer will have to replace last year’s girls state meet MVP Karley Konkol along with boys throwers Tyler Schultz and Greg Witt and sprinter Chad Bryant.
“The kids are training hard and working hard already. We’re kind of excited for a good year,” Black said.
The Wildcat girls are already off to a good start with senior Mo Mack, who equaled a school record with a high jump of 5 feet, 2 inches at an indoor meet in Chadron, Neb., last weekend.
Sophomore Mattisen Kelley and seniors Samantha McNeel and Victoria Dahlstrom are expected to score points in distances and relays for the Wildcats.
On the boys side, Black expects contributions from distance runners Cody Herman, a senior, and junior Logan Burns, senior hurdler Jared Thomsen and a pair of returning state champions in Clayton Wahlstrom (pole vault) and Brennan Witt (800).
“We were second at state to Madison and Dell Rapids was up there. The boys performed really well. I’ve got some strong relays coming back,” Black said.
Nida’s cause for optimism is also built on the strength of the Spartans’ returning roster.
“Our numbers are up right now. We’ve got some pretty good depth and upper-class leadership on both sides, boys and girls,” Nida said.
The Spartans boast a solid returning core of state-meet placers, including senior Liz Hubbard (first in high jump), hurdlers Kaitlin Hinch and freshman Taylor Koch, distance runner Savannah Childers and junior Caitlin Gehner (second in pole vault).
Returning boys placers include juniors Luke Wietgrefe (400) and Trevor Sigmund (pole vault).
“We think we can be in the mix for the conference,” Nida said. “Douglas could throw some numbers in there and do some good things also."
Weather will play a factor in how things shape up, with early-season meets at Douglas and Hot Springs falling victim to cold temperatures.
"Until we get on the track and see what people have, it’s kind of hard to tell,” Nida said.
Other athletes to watch in the ‘A’ ranks include Hill City seniors Kala McDonald (first in 400, second in 200 at state), junior distance specialist Eric Yager and senior discus champion Mary Ginsbach of Hot Springs, and high jumper Taylor Kratovil of Bennett County.