For St. Thomas More boys' and girls' track and field, the end of May has been a very good time of year.

The girls' team has won titles in the last four seasons, with the boys' squad taking three of the last four. The last six combined team titles have gone to the Cavaliers.

However, STM coach Scott Benson said he wants his athletes to forget the past this weekend at the Class A meet in Sioux Falls.

"We try to stick to the day-to-day. From a coaching standpoint, we don’t really talk a lot about championships, we put the focus on working hard every day and the outcome will take care of itself," he said. "With that said, I know some of the kids are starting to feel that kind of pressure, but we do our best to keep them relaxed and let them know that it’s just another track meet."

Friday the preliminaries for Class AA will be from Brandon Valley, Class A will be from Tea Area and Class B will be from Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. Saturday the finals for all three classes will be at Howard Wood Field.  

It will be just another track meet where Benson said he believes STM can score in every event it is entered in.

On the boys' side, Jacob Hyde will have the potential to get the Cavaliers some big points. As a result, he has a full schedule.

Hyde is entered in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes. He is the top seed in the 200 and 400, and the second seed in the 100. He is the defending champion in the 200.

"It’s going to be a rough weekend for him, but if anybody can do it, he can," Benson said.

Jens Christensen also comes in as a potential winner for the Cavalier boys. He is defending state champion in the pole vault and the number one seed going into the weekend.

For the girls, Kaci Cooper and Hayleigh Timmer give STM a chance to finish first and second in the 400 and 800. Cooper is the number one seed in both events and Timmer is the third seed in the 400 and second seed in the 800.

"We’re going to need some other girls to step up around them, and bank on the relays," Benson said. "I feel good about it. I’m a little bit uneasy because we haven’t been able to get a lot accomplished this week, although I don’t know if anybody else has either."

For Rapid City Stevens, the goal is simple for both the girls' and boys' teams at the Class AA meet.

"We set the same goal every year, just to be able to compete at our highest level at the state meet," Stevens coach Paul Hendry said. "If our best effort doesn’t get us a state title, we’re going to be pleased with wherever we finish."

Hendry's girls' team's best effort, in his opinion, could result in the Raiders being on top when the weekend is over.

He admitted that it'll take a big effort from some of his best performers. Stevens has a range this season, with Elizabeth Schaefer as the number one seed in the 300 meter hurdles and the second seed in the 100 hurdles. She won both events last season.

"With someone like Elizabeth Schaefer, we look at it like it’s another meet. Just do what you’re capable of doing," Hendry said. "Most of the time if you can do what you’ve done all year, it’s going to give you good results. If you think you have to have a new personal record or do something super human to accomplish your goals, that’s not always the case."

Stevens will also look for points in the field events, with Savannah Perez (discus), Megan Baloun (triple jump) and Madisyn Trupe (pole vault) coming as number two seeds. Hailey Uhre is also a number two seed in the 3,200. 

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For the Raider boys, the goal is to make it to the podium, which goes to the top six team finishers.

Last season the Raiders finished 11th in the boys' competition.

"We were pleased with our effort, and I thought we did everything we could do so; it’s the same thing with these guys," he said. "It would take everything we have to end up on the podium, and we have some young boys who are helping out. If we do what we can do, we’ll have an outside shot to do that."

There also be the potential for boys' individual titles, with Isaiah Morin-Baxter the number one seed in the high jump and Aubrey Williams in the triple jump.

Tuesday as rain and snow pelted the ground outside, Rapid City Central coach David Dolan had enough.

He decided to bus a group of sprinters and hurdlers to Black Hills State and the Young Center for one more workout on a track instead of concrete before the state meet.

It's especially important for his girls' team, which has been trying to get 100 percent healthy all season. He said 2017 100 hurdles champion Emilee Nickel is starting to get back to full strength.

Dolan said a lack of depth will make it hard, but not impossible, for the Cobblers to reach the podium.

"In girls' we don’t cover a lot of events, there’s some events we just don’t have anyone in, so as a team to be in the top six will be very hard for us," he said. "We’ll have to score very well in the events that we do cover. They’re ready, they’re excited and nervous, all the things you’d expect going into a state competition."

Hannah Young will be the Central sprinter to watch, as she has been all season. She is seeded second in the 100 and 200 to Harrisburg's Erin Kinney.

On the boys' side, young has mixed with old to make the group a fun one to coach, according to Dolan.

Kayleb Twomey is the senior of the group, and Dolan said his goal is to take down defending 300 hurdles champion Pierre Lear of Watertown. Last season Twomey had the top time in the preliminaries, but finished third in the event.

This season he's seeded third behind Lear and Jesse VanHemert of Brandon Valley.

"He’s game and I expect him to be at the top of his game," Dolan said. "I expect him to run well this weekend."

Dolan also said he's been impressed by his core group, which consists mostly of sophomores and juniors.

He's been impressed by how much those athletes, many of whom play multiple sports, have matured throughout the season.

"You can see their confidence grow in the events they do, because in track and field it’s just you accept for the relays. It’s you on the blocks, you in the field, you in the runway and you in the ring," he said. "They have a focused attitude, I’ve been impressed to watch them grow as athletes."

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Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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