SIOUX FALLS — Despite an impressive history of success in previous state meets — three titles in last four years in girls, and five of last six in boys — St. Thomas More track coach Scott Benson advised caution coming into this year’s Class A State Track and Field Championships, suggesting that stellar performances would be needed if the Cavaliers were to repeat as champions.
Benson needn’t have worried as St. Thomas More captured both team titles at Howard Wood Field. The Cavalier boys (97 points) easily outdistanced Sioux Falls Christian (78) while Lennox (48), Beresford (37) and Custer (36) rounded out the top five.
The Cavalier girls' squad (76 POINTS) had to hold off the challenge of another West River track perennial powerhouse, Custer (66).
“This year was different in that we weren’t as strong as we have been in the past,” Benson said. “With the boys, I knew we would have a legitimate shot, but for the girls to step up and get themselves into this and have a shot to win just amazes me.”
Jacob Hyde keyed the Cavalier effort for the boys, capturing three individual crowns — the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes — and anchored the 4X200 relay team of Corten Dobesh, Grant Huber and Matthew McGillick to the school’s seventh consecutive state title in the event.
Hyde’s outstanding effort earned the junior the Class A MVP track award.
“Jacob is one of those kids that you get to see once every 20 years, and it’s just special to be along the ride with him,” Benson said. “But I thought Jarek Glenn in the mile today (third) and Grant Huber in the 300 hurdles — a surprising second after coming in with the seventh best time — really swung things in our direction.”
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Junior Kaci Cooper and sophomore Haleigh Timmer followed up a 1-2 finish in the girls 800 meters on Friday with a similar performance in Saturday’s 400, as Cooper covered the distance in 57.50 seconds, followed by Timmer (58.35) to pad the Cavalier lead with an additional 18 points. The Cavalier duo followed up by joining Mary Dyke and Skylar Sullivan to salt the girls' team state title away with a win in the final event of the day, the 4X400 relay.
“Today I woke up feeling a lot rougher than yesterday, so I was a little worried,” Cooper said. “I told Haleigh before the race today that this is going to feel a lot worse than yesterday, but we just have to push through it since we’ve trained so hard for this. And we were careful with the wind on the backstretch to not push too hard and save some energy, and when we got to the 200-meter mark, just go for it.”
Rather remarkably, the Cavalier girls won the state crown despite not having scored a single point in the field events.
“It’s really difficult to win when you don’t have the ability to do that, and you have to be really good on the track and avoid mistakes, and the girls did that this weekend and did everything they were expected to do,” coach Benson said. “We knew we had Kaci and Haleigh to build our foundation, and after that we had a lot of other girls step up and score some big points today.”
Custer followed up wins by Kellyn Kortemeyer (girls shot put) and Josey Wahlstrom (pole vault) on Friday with a come-from-behind win in the 1,600 sprint medley relay in dramatic style. It was an effort climaxed by a dramatic stretch run by junior Mallory Delmont, who after losing the lead on the backstretch to Ali Bainbridge of Lennox — the 1,600 and 3,200 champion — rebounded in the final 50 meters to earn the Wildcats the gold medal.
“My teammates had worked so hard that I didn’t want to lose it for them,” Delmont said. “I don’t think I have sprinted that fast in a long time, so it was good to have somebody push me like that. I just told myself that I had to just push hard a little bit farther.”
Complete results of Saturday's Class A action can be found online at rapidcityjournal.com.