State Track Meet Preview 2023 | South Dakota

It’s nearly here.

Howard Wood Field - Courtesy: Alex HeinertFor three days over Memorial Day weekend, the best high school athletes in South Dakota will converge on Howard Wood Field to compete for individual and team championships at the 2023 SDHSAA State Track and Field Championships.

It’s the 118th edition of the boys meet and the 55th for the girls – and the second featuring the new three-day, one-site format – and with a surplus of records in danger and multiple team titles set to come down to the wire, the stage is set for yet another memorable state meet weekend.

For an overview of which records might fall, what events are particularly intriguing, and how the team races might shake out, read on for a (far too long) primer of what to expect on May 25-27 in Sioux Falls.

Events of Intrigue                                                                                            

AA Girls Distance Races – Get ready for an entertaining battle in the AA distances this weekend between some of the state’s all-time best. Sioux Falls Lincoln senior Ali Bainbridge – a Nebraska commit and a multi-time state champ in track and cross country – enters with the top time in the 800 and 3200, while O’Gorman’s decorated sophomore Libby Castelli has posted the state’s best 1600 mark and is one one-hundredth behind Bainbridge in the half and just two seconds back in the 3200. Both rank inside the top six all-time in South Dakota in the 3200.

And while those two should finish top-three in all three races, remember that Rapid City Stevens’ senior Brionna Holso defeated both in the 1600 at the Dakota Relays earlier this month. The University of Portland commit’s 4:57.70 on that afternoon moved her into ninth all-time – just two places and two seconds behind Castelli’s 4:55.25 from this April’s Drake Relays.

Then there’s Brandon Valley junior Mia Wentzy, one of the favorites in the 400 and a dominant relay anchor for the Lynx over the last two years. The junior is the ESD and Metro champ in the 800 and sits less than a second back of Bainbridge and Castelli in that race with a season’s best of 2:15.82. Wentzy has finished third in the half-mile at state in each of the last two years, and she’ll certainly be in the mix for a high podium finish again this weekend.

AA Boys Discus Podium | Courtesy: South Dakota Public BroadcastingAA Boys Throws – Cornhusker fans, rejoice! Before Kael Miedema of Sioux Falls Washington and Jason Maciejczak of Pierre depart for Lincoln this summer, the two will clash in the ring two more times with South Dakota state titles on the line. Miedema edged out Maciejczak for the “AA” crown in both the shot put and discus last May and fired off 63’8” and 196’6” efforts one week ago – both top-ten marks all-time in state history – but Maciejczak got the better of the Warriors star in both events at the Dakota Relays earlier this month and profiles as the more consistent of the two, even if Miedema’s ceiling is higher.

In non-University of Nebraska commit news, the “AA” javelin competition should be fun to watch as well. Harrisburg’s Carson Barnett aims to remain the only state champion the sport has ever known, though he’ll face stiff competition from Sioux Falls Jefferson’s Griffin Wilde. The all-state wide receiver and SDSU football recruit is within touching distance of Barnett and is also top-ranked in the long jump and the 400 meters.    

AA Boys Pole Vault – Watertown’s Owen Spartz is the defending champion and a favorite to repeat after clearing 15 feet five times this season, including a PR of 15’9” earlier this month that stands as the fifth-best vault in South Dakota prep history. His biggest competition is fellow junior Beau Karst of Harrisburg, who just cleared 15’4” last week – good enough for ninth in state history – and is clearly peaking at the right time. It should be a treat to watch these two soar higher and higher with a state title on the line this Friday afternoon.

A Girls Long Jump – Seven competitors – including last year’s state champion Molli Thornton and runner-up Emma Goehring, both of West Central – have posted marks between 17 feet and 17.75 feet this season, and with three others within an inch of the 17-foot plateau, just making the finals will feel like an accomplishment. The horizontal jumps are typically unpredictable, but this tight of a field is unique – even for long jump.

A Girls High Jump – Wagner’s Ashlyn Koupal is the two-time defending state champ in this event, a fact made more impressive considering she’s only a freshman. The highly-sought-after basketball recruit cleared 5’7” to beat out Madison’s Audrey Nelson by one bar a year ago at the “A” state meet, and the two are poised to duel again on Friday morning. Nelson, a junior, claimed the Dakota Relays title earlier this month with a season’s best clearance of 5’6”, and she and Koupal – who has also surpassed 5’6” this year – will likely need to hit those heights again to hold off a talented field headlined by Dakota Valley’s Jorja VanDenHul and Miller’s Ally Mullaney.

B Boys High Jump – More often than you’d expect, South Dakota’s best high jumpers have a tendency to come from Class “B”, and that’s the case again this year, thanks to Gregory’s Daniel Mitchell and Colman-Egan’s Jack Mousel. The pair finished 1-2 at the Dakota Relays earlier this month – with the sophomore Mousel getting the title over the junior Mitchell – and they’re set to clash again at Howard Wood Field on Saturday afternoon.

B Girls 400 Meters – If you can only watch one “B” Girls race all weekend, the quarter-mile might be the pick of the bunch. Senior Ellie Olsen of Deubrook Area has the class’s best time at 58.64 seconds. Senior Reese Luze of Colman-Egan – who in addition to back-to-back 800 crowns is the defending champ in this event – is ranked second in 58.94. And last year’s runner-up – Emma Marshall of Irene-Wakonda – is just behind them at 59.15. Get ready for a dramatic finish in one of the meet’s final running events.

State Meet Record Watch                                                                                 

Simeon Birnbaum, Rapid City Stevens – The Oregon commit’s pursuit of claiming four individual running events at the state meet won’t happen as originally planned, as a sore hamstring will take Birnbaum out of the 400 meters and onto the medley relay instead. And while the nature of a state meet – with its team-first focus and events coming thick and fast – will make it less likely the South Dakota prep record holder in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m will lower his already gaudy marks in those events at this meet, that won’t diminish how special it’ll be to see the state’s greatest distance runner take to the track in the blue and silver of Stevens High School one last time in his home state. Even at less than 100%, anytime Birnbaum steps to the start line, he’ll be in contention to break a state meet record, making all three “AA” Boys distance races appointment viewing this weekend.

Nyariek Kur, Sioux Falls Washington – Anytime you’re in the ballpark of a Jasmyne King record, you’re doing something right. The former Rapid Central and University of Miami star’s ten career all-class gold medals still hold up as the second-most won all-time – and she’s still the South Dakota prep record holder in the 100 meters and 200 meters – but King might see her final “AA” state meet record fall this weekend. Enter Nyariek Kur, the Warriors junior who won both the long and triple jump at the Dakota Relays this year and leads the state in both events by nine inches. She’s gone 18’11” in the long jump this year, and while that’s only a quarter of an inch farther than King’s 2008 record, Nyariek only needs to replicate that effort once on Thursday afternoon to move into the history books.

Berkely Engelland - Courtesy: Alex HeinertBerkely Engelland, Mt. Vernon/Plankinton – The SDHSAA Class “A” State Meet record book might look a whole lot different this Memorial Day after what could be a historic weekend for the junior from MVP. Engelland, who set meet records in the 400m and 800m a year ago, has the top time in all classes in South Dakota in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m this spring, with her season’s best in each race either significantly faster than the old “A” record, or – in the case of the 100 – just a tenth of a second slower. The big one to watch is the 200 meters, where Berkely will need to hit 25.15 to break Althea Meeter of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte’s 1991 mark. Her season’s best? 24.88 seconds.

Much like Birnbaum, however, doing four individual events in one weekend – even over a three-day meet – puts a ceiling on how fast times might be, especially when you consider she’ll run seven races total when factoring in prelims. It’s incredibly rare to pull off an individual running quadruple at state – no one’s done it since Ipswich’s Macy Heinz, who famously won various combinations of the 100 up to the 3200m three years in a row from 2014-2016 – so even if Engelland doesn’t get the records but wins all four races, the feat will still vault her into legendary status.

Josiah Adams, Sioux Falls Christian – Top-ranked in the 100m, 200m, and both hurdle events, Adams also has a chance to go four-for-four on the track, though he’ll certainly be pushed along the way – especially in the 200 and 110s. But while the Grand Canyon University commit has a two-and-a-half second edge on the field in the 300 hurdles, it’s the 100 where he has the clearest path to a Class “A” state meet record. Adams has gone 10.54 seconds this year, 0.09 faster than the 2003 record of West Central legend Slade Hinrichs.

Isabelle Bloker, Sioux Valley – After claiming her first state cross country championship this fall, Bloker has carried over that success to the spring, posting times under the Class “A” meet record in both the 1600 and 3200 this season. Those marks were set back in 1991 by Hiedi (Reed) Johnson of Canton, who would go on to become an NCC champion and DII All-American at Augustana.

Isaac Davelaar - Courtesy: Alex HeinertIsaac Davelaar, Sioux Falls Christian – Already the “A” meet record holder in the 1600, Davelaar has run under the 800-meter record mark of 1:53.76 set in 2009 by Ethan/Parkston’s Alex Muntefering, who’d go on to help Colorado State win the 2013 NCAA cross country title. The future Dordt Defender just ran 1:53.22 last week at the Region 3A meet, a fact made all the more impressive considering he won that race by 20 seconds. He’ll face stiffer competition – and be much busier – this weekend, but Davelaar’s already hit 1:53 twice this season and could certainly be in that ballpark again on Friday afternoon.

Gracelyn Leiseth, Hamlin – The question isn’t whether the future Florida Gator will unify the state title belts in the throwing events for the first time in her career – Gracelyn’s ahead of her closest challenger and teammate Kami Wadsworth by nine feet in the shot put and 40 feet (!!) in the discus – but it’s how high up the national rankings she can climb. The state’s all-time record holder in both events, Leiseth currently sits third in the US in both the shot and discus, and while she set the all-class meet record in the shot a year ago at a jaw-dropping 52’ 6.75” effort, she doesn’t have the state meet discus record in her possession yet. She’ll need to hit 166’ to do so, a distance she’s exceeded three times this season.

Sawyer Clarkson, Belle Fourche – Is it more fun to break someone else’s record - or your own? That’s the question we may be asking Clarkson on Friday morning, as one year after he broke the Class “A” state meet record in the 3200, he’s poised to do so again. The Gonzaga commit ran 9:07.70 to win the 32 at the Dakota Relays earlier this month, a time 17 seconds faster than his record-setting mark from 2022. All signs point to the two-time state XC champ becoming a two-time state 3200-meter champ as well.

Ciana Stiefel, Custer – The sophomore vaulter from the Black Hills has already thrilled the Howard Wood faithful once this month with a Dakota Relays record-breaking 12’ 7” clearance to move her into a four-way tie for second on the state’s all-time list. If Stiefel hits close to those heights again this weekend, she’ll surpass Carolyn Groeger of Lead-Deadwood’s 2018 Class “A” state meet record of 11’10” with room to spare.

Emery Larson, Chester Area – The lone Class “B” individual state meet record that appears to be under threat is in the Girls 1600 meters, where Larson’s season best is just 0.06 seconds off the 2003 mark of 5:04.51 set by Summit’s Melinda Zirbel, who won back-to-back-to-back 1600m and 3200m titles in the early 2000s before competing at NDSU. Already a state champ in cross country this year, the freshman Flyer is top-ranked in “B” in both distance events entering the weekend.

Team Championship Preview                                                                                    

Colman-Egan Girls | Courtesy: Alex HeinertClass B Girls – Two-time defending champions Colman-Egan doubled up the competition in 2022, scoring 99 points to second-place Northwestern’s 48, and a similar result could be on the cards for 2023. The Hawks are led by the defending 100 and 200-meter champion in Daniela Lee, the reigning 400 and 800-meter champion in Reese Luze, and they boast relay squads that set four Howard Wood Dakota Relays records earlier this month.

Class B Boys – Chester Area had a dream state meet in 2022, posting 86 points to win the title by 41 ahead of a bunched-up chase pack. Yet the graduation of last year’s State Track MVP Ryan Benson – who won titles in both hurdle races, the 4x1, and the long jump – as well as a handful of other point-winners make the Flyers’ repeat chances less favorable, even with the return of 200/400 state champion Jovi Wolf.

Who takes Chester’s place on top of the podium is anyone’s guess, as the “B” Boys once again projects to be the most wide-open team battle at this year’s state meet. Canistota, Deubrook Area, Gregory, and Viborg-Hurley appear to be the top contenders – all four are projected to score between 43 to 45 points this weekend – but don’t be shocked if a team no one’s talking about (Faulkton? Dell Rapids St. Mary? Wolsey-Wessington??) steps in to take the crown.

SFC Girls | Courtesy: Alex HeinertClass A Girls – Sioux Falls Christian reclaimed the “A” Girls team crown in 2022 – the Chargers’ first since 2014 – and with almost everyone back from the squad that racked up 101.5 points at state a year ago, they’re the clear favorites to add another title to the trophy case. Even though SFC doesn’t have an athlete ranked first in any individual event, no other squad will cover as many disciplines as the Chargers, plus they’re projected to win three relays and finish second in five other events. Custer, West Central, and Mt. Vernon/Plankinton should stage a good battle for the runner-up spot.

Class A Boys – Sioux Falls Christian retained the “A” Boys team crown in 2022 – the Chargers’ second in a row – and with almost everyone back from the squad that racked up 125 points at state a year ago, they’re the clear favorites to add another title to the trophy case. (…Sound familiar?)

However, unlike the SFC girls, Luke VanderLeest’s boys are ranked first in almost everything on the track – including all five relays – and feature a pair of individual talents you’ll read more about below who are set to break all kinds of records this weekend. They won the team crown by 59 points last year. Expect a similar margin this time around.

Ali Bainbridge, Sioux Falls Lincoln | Courtesy: South Dakota Public BroadcastingClass AA Girls – In each of the last two years, O’Gorman, Brandon Valley, Sioux Falls Lincoln, and Rapid City Stevens have finished one through four in the “AA” Girls team race, and it’s likely those same four will lead the pack once again in 2023. With that said, after back-to-back years of team titles by the Knights – including one shared with BVHS in 2021 – it appears Lincoln may have the edge entering this weekend.

The Patriot girls won three state championships in four years prior to the Covid cancellation of the 2020 state meet, and they could find themselves back on top this year, though much hinges on big weekends from Linnea Nesheim in the sprints, Dymond Nave in the hurdles, Ali Bainbridge in the distances, and strong efforts across the relays. Expect this team title race to come down to the wire.   

Simeon Birnbaum, Rapid City Stevens - Photo Courtesy: Josh JurgensClass AA Boys – Harrisburg surprised everyone in 2022 by claiming their first “AA” state track title and their first of any kind since earning the Class “A” crown in 1996. But while the Tigers will be in the mix once again this weekend, this year’s team race in “AA” Boys looks to be a two-team battle between Rapid City Stevens and Brandon Valley. The Raiders will do their damage on the track behind Simeon Birnbaum and a host of talented sprinters, while the Lynx have a major edge in the field, where the trio of Grayden Binger, Wyatt Melcher, and Landon Dulaney are projected to score big points in the horizontal jumps.

A year ago, Stevens came within four points of their first championship since 2010, while BVHS hasn’t won a boys track title since 1986. It’s cliché, but every point will matter in what projects to be a tight race from start to finish.  

Best of luck to the nearly 3000 student athletes set to compete this weekend in Sioux Falls! Stay up to date with all the action from Howard Wood Field on Midco Sports’ social platforms, and enjoy what should be a phenomenal three days of track and field!

Filed Under SD High School | Running/Track and Field