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Warner boys off to fast start this spring

Warner’s Jackson McNeil winds up to throw the discus Saturday at the Battler Invitational Track Meet in Gettysburg. McNeil is currently second in the Class B shot put. Photo by John Davis taken 4/17/2021

When you take a look at the state track and field leaders this season it’s not hard to find members of the Warner boys’ squad. The Monarchs are in nearly half of the 19 events.

Part of the reason is that Warner has quality athletes and part of it may be that they have gone to more outdoor meets than some teams in the area.

“I think we’ve just been lucky to hit some meets early on where others have been having to jockey around losing opportunities,” said Warner coach Jeff Larson. “We’re very fortunate that the school is lenient to us to be able to switch. I think we’ve had three changes, three switches, to get to a track meet for the kids and get them some time running.”

Cody Larson was the only local athlete that competed in a meet in Brandon where he broke two school records.

“The problem with being up here in the north is we seem to get a lot colder weather, so we had to go and get the warm weather that some of the southern teams have,” Coach Larson said. “It just happened to be a AA meet. They were very courteous of letting us come in and to have an opportunity to compete. It really paid off because we got to see some very talented runners and we were right there with all of them.”

Larson currently leads Class B in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and broke school records in all three of those events already this spring. He is also sixth in the 400. Landon Leidholt is second in the 110-meter high hurdles and fourth in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, Both seniors run on the 1,600-meter relay team which is second. Jackson McNeil is second in the shot put.

“I think it’s somewhat a product the kids bought in early this year. Before track began they were excited to come,” Coach Larson said. “I don’t know if that’s partly because of missing last season or just realizing there was potential. I don’t have to tell them what’s at stake when we’re at practice or get on them to run hard in practice. They’re doing that on their own.”

Throw in athletes like Peyton Jung in the jumps and Dillon Browning in the distance and it appears that the Monarchs are in the conversation when it comes to potential state championship teams.

“Right now, we’ve got it in our mind, but we don’t want it to overwhelm us. Right now, we’re just looking at meets trying to qualify kids and find out what relays can add to points,” Coach Larson said. “We want to be on that stand, but at the same time we have to add to that, because there are some strong teams all over. Ipswich is dominant on the sprinting side of things, Viborg-Hurley is still going to be a force to be reckoned with, so we have to add what we can add.”

Larson doesn’t have to look far to find regular competition. The Lake Region Conference is loaded with top quality athletes in a variety of events. Half of the top eight times in the Class B 200-meter dash belong to LRC sprinters.

“We just have talented kids and it’s great to see. We’ve got our competitions and we want to win LRC and all that stuff, but you go and you sit in the stands, and there’s fans from other towns cheering on these kids. They’re seeing what incredible feats they have (done),” Coach Larson said. “It has never been better for the sport of track in this area. It gives people hope that we can compete with some people even though we don’t have the great weather or even though we don’t have the facilities that some of these places do. We can turn out results and that makes it fun to coach and watch.”

LEADING THE WAY

There are two athletes who led three individual events in the leaders.

Cody Larson of Warner leads the Class B boys in the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs. Ellen Merkley of Sioux Falls Lincoln leads the AA girls in the 100-meter, 200-meter and long jump.

There are 19 other athletes who top two individual events including Sam Rohlfs of Aberdeen Central in the AA boys long jump and triple jump, and Zander Widener of Langford Area in the 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter intermediate hurdles.

BY THE NUMBERS

There is one team who is setting the standard so far this spring. Sioux Falls Christian leads the Class A boys in nine events, including all five relay races. Things are completely opposite in the Class A girls, where six teams each lead two events. That list includes Parker, Red Cloud, Canton, Belle Fourche, Mount Vernon-Plankinton and Hamlin.

Other team leaders include Sioux Falls Lincoln in Class AA girls (six events), Sioux Falls Lincoln in Class AA boys (five events), Menno and Colman-Egan in B girls (four events each), and Viborg-Hurley in B boys (four events).

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