Given its 92-year history, it would be an understatement to say that the Howard Wood Dakota Relays is “more than just a track meet.” The event is a celebration of the sport in Sioux Falls, the state of South Dakota and the region as a whole – every year showcasing the best track and field athletes in the Mount Rushmore State and several neighboring states. To understand the prestige of the event here, one need look no further than the meet program, which richly and colorfully illustrates the meet’s history and honors the great coaches, officials and volunteers that make it all happen over two days at beautiful Howard Wood Field.
The talent is strong across the board in the sprints, distances, hurdles, relays, jumps and throws – but perhaps nowhere else as much as in the unique “Special Events.” Each year, the meet committee works to put together talented invitational fields for two track events – the girls’ 200 and boys’ 800 one year, the boys’ 200 and girls’ 800 the next – to add prestige and spice to the Friday night program. This year, it’s the latter, with eight outstanding sprinters ready to compete in the boys’ furlong, while eight great middle distance girls will compete over two laps.
Girls’ 800: Diverse, evenly matched field vies for title
Eight girls. Four different states. Two laps around the Howard Wood track for a field whose PRs range from 2:12 to 2:20.
It’s a recipe for a very exciting, competitive Girls’ 800 Special Event.
You’ve got freshmen and you’ve got seniors, and you’ve got athletes whose PRs are brand new and others whose bests are a year or two past. It’s going to be all about whose game is good on Friday night. And half the field is from South Dakota and the other half from Minnesota, North Dakota (2) and Colorado.
Probably the biggest threat to win from beyond SD is Edina, MN junior Emily Kompelien. She has a 2:13.73 PR and has run a 2:11 split when Edina ran a state record 8:59.69 4x800 last spring. Kompelien also has the best 1,600/3,200 PRs at 4:53 and 10:43 – yet still has 58.60 400 speed. Her season’s best is 2:17.69. Meanwhile, meet officials are particularly excited because they’ve got a Colorado athlete in the Special Events for the first time, in the name of Salida senior Taryn Ceglowski. She’s got the fastest 2017 time among entries at 2:15.59 – though that ranks #4 in terms of overall PR. She has 58.98 400 speed (brand new PR) and solid 1600/XC endurance.
Then there’s the North Dakota duo: Hillsboro junior Gracie Wright and Bismarck Legacy soph Lindsey Werner. Wright has a 2:17.64 PR and currently leads the state at 2:18.77. She does it all for Hillsboro, from the indoor 60 to cross-country, but the 400 (blazing 57.65 PR, 2x Class B state champ) and 800 are probably her best events. Werner has run 2:18.62 and was Class A runner-up last year. She’s also a sub-5:10 1,600 runner.
The South Dakota girls – four in all – will be formidable, though, in their bid to keep the title in state: Sioux Falls Lincoln junior Jasmyne Cooper, Custer junior Tori Glazier, Vermillion junior Maddie Lavin and Brookings freshman Ellie Abraham.
Cooper has the best PR in the field, but it dates back to 2015 when she won Class AA state at 2:12.72. She’s won two straight 800 crowns in AA, in fact, and was 4th in this very race in ’15. Coming at the event more from a speed background, she’s has 57.47 wheels in the 400 – but also has run 4:58.18 to win the 1,600 at Howard Wood last year and won state XC last fall. The only thing is, she’s yet to run a fast 800 this spring (2:20.29 best).
Glazier also ran in the Special 800 back in ’15 as a freshman, just 0.38 behind Cooper in 5th. She was very consistent last year in the event between 2:14-2:16, with a Class A winning time of 2:14.13. Her 400 speed is also above average, though she’s strong in the longer races, too.
On the other hand, Lavin specializes in the longer races, though with the talent to race 800 (2:20.10 PR), too. She was the Class A 1,600 (5:03.81) and 3,200 (11:10.08) champ last year and, with a leg on the runner-up SMR, won the meet’ MVP award. Abraham, in Class AA, had an outstanding 8th-grade year, with finishes ranging from 2nd to 4th in state completion and PRs very close to Lavin’s times.
Boys 200: Minnesotan Brown earns favorite’s role
While the girls’ Special Event 800 is arguably without a clear favorite, Denzel Brown looks like the guy to beat in the boys’ half-lap counterpart. The Eden Prairie, MN senior not only has the top seasonal and career best coming in at 21.62 (last weekend’s Hamline Elite meet), but has a 21.65 state AA meet title performance to his name from ’16 – and into a 2.9 headwind. Brown is at least as good at 100 – which he will also contest, on Saturday – with a 10.53 from Hamline and a 10.56 wind-legal PR from last year.
Six of the eight sprinters in the field are from S.D., with Winner HS senior Cameron Kuil looking like the biggest challenger to Brown – if not a co-favorite. Kuil has a PR of 21.66 from last year and has run 21.73 this year. He medaled in all three sprints last year, winning the 400, and is the current state leader in each. Both Kuil and Brown could challenge the meet record of 21.52 (Nate Gerry, 2013).
The other South Dakotans in the 200: St. Thomas More senior Jake Aanderud, Mitchell senior Spencer Neugebauer, Sioux Falls Lincoln junior Collin Brison, Brandon Valley junior Braiden Peterson and Watertown sophomore Garrett Determan. Aanderud was right behind Kuil in the 100 and 200 at Class A state last year, and has run 21.80 this spring. He’s been a huge reason why St. Thomas More has won back-to-back titles in ‘A.’ The other senior, Neugebauer, has run 22.30 and was a 100/200 finalist last year.
Lincoln’s Brison, meanwhile, may be the top junior in S.D. and the fastest in Class AA. He’s recently gone under 22 for the first time at 21.97. Peterson – like many of these athletes a football standout – has made his debut on the oval as a junior and is already down to 22.20, one of the state’s most exciting new talents. Then Determan is the only sophomore in the field; he ran 21.80 as a frosh, has hit 10.70 at 100 this year (an event where he was a finalist at AA state in ’16).
The only other out-of-stater in the 200 is Alex Brosseau of Bismarck Legacy in North Dakota. He’s a 22.19 (and 10.86) performer and was a finalist in both at Class A state last year (3rd 100).