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Central boys win ESD track and field title

Aberdeen Central’s Josh Martin, left, pulls ahead of Brandon Valley’s Austin Vigants, right, as they race for the finish line in the 3200 meter relay Saturday at the ESD Conference track and field meet at Swisher Field. Photo by John Davis taken 5/15/2021

It was a day that members of the Aberdeen Central boys’ track and field squad will remember for a long time.

The Golden Eagles received contributions from all angles and captured their first Eastern South Dakota Conference track and field championship since 2004 on Saturday at Swisher Field. The Eagles overtook Brandon Valley with one event remaining and finished with 147.5 points compared to 136 for the Lynx.

“I told the kids all week, five or six things have to go right and only one or two things can go wrong,” said Central boys’ coach Greg Murley. “We had eight or nine things go right and really only one thing go wrong. It was a good day.”

Sam Rohlfs had another monster day for the squad. The junior won the long jump and triple jump, and finished second in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.

“I was happy with the triple. I PR’d by two inches,” Rohlfs said. “The long jump was a really big deal for me. I went 22-7. That’s a five-inch PR. It puts me number one in the state for AA.”

Rohlfs, who also set a PR in the 100, was also happy to be a part of the new ESD champions.

“It means a lot. My freshman year we came really close to winning it and we didn’t. The same with my eighth-grade year,” Rohlfs said. “I’m happy for all the coaches. I’m happy to be a part of it and very honored to be a part of this team.”

Josh Martin won the 3,200 and also ran the anchor leg on the victorious 3,200-meter relay squad. Central trailed until a strong third led from Daniel Street put the team in front. From there it was up to Martin to hold off Austin Vigants, a standout runner from Brandon Valley.

“I knew it was just kind of me and other guy. I figured as long as I stayed in front I’d have a chance,” Martin said. “We got to the second lap and I knew I had to kick it, because he’s faster than me. I knew I couldn’t lose it for my teammates. I was thinking about them at the end.”

Brooklyn Kusler ran on four relays for Central in the girls’ division. The senior said she always thinks about her teammates when she is competing.

“I’ve always been in team sports and that’s what it feels like to me,” Kusler said of the relays. “There’s times in the 400 when you’re on the back stretch and you’re like, ‘Holy cow I have a long ways left’ and you just feel that baton and see it as you’re running and you’re like this is for more than just myself. I just think that’s why they mean so much more and they’re so much more fun, because it’s for a group of people rather than just for your own self.”

Fellow senior Abby Kopecky finished third in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and also ran on some relays. Like Kusler, she also enjoys competing with teammates in the relays.

“For open events, it’s just based on your performance. You have to go as hard as you want,” Kopecky said. “When you have a team, it’s nice because then you’re relying on someone else, but they’re also relying on you, so you have to push that much harder and rely on the team as well. I like the team events better. It makes you go a little faster having people rely on you.”

Brandon Valley won the girls’ team title with Central third behind Brookings.

Central girls’ coach Jim Appl thought his team had a solid chance for second, but a few things did not go as planned.

“We placed in dang near all the field events. We just didn’t get where we wanted to get in them,” Appl said. “We scored in some places we shouldn’t and we fell back in a few places where we wish we would have stayed OK.”

Appl pointed out the performances of many, but one in particular stood out.

“The surprise of the day that no one saw coming, Sadie Struble takes four seconds off her time and goes from 15th to sixth in the 300 hurdles,” Appl said.

In the end, the Eagles had a lot of quality marks on the day.

“I told the girls beforehand, whatever happens I’m proud of them today,” Appl said. “We had a lot of kids PR, so it was a good day.”

The inaugural Athletes of the Meet were Evan Henderson of Harrisburg for boys’ track events, Cooper Mack of Watertown for boys’ field events, Meghan Walker of Brandon Valley for girls’ track events, and Maggie Heesch of Watertown for girls’ field events.

Mack, who almost threw the shot put out of the pit area, broke the meet record in the event by more than five feet, throwing 66-feet 9-inches.

“I haven’t quite peaked, yet,” said Mack who will compete for Baylor next season, “so hopefully I can throw some bigger ones coming forward.”

When Mack attempted his final throw, the shot put area sprang to life with people shouting and clapping in rhythm and not just people from Watertown.

“It’s really a blessing. I know it doesn’t happen for everyone, so I’m glad I get it,” Mack said. “There’s a lot of great coaches and a lot of great people here. These meets are a lot of fun.”

As the meet came to a close, there was plenty of commotion on the infield as the Central boys celebrated their first conference crown in nearly 20 years. It just so happened to come on the final home event for retiring Central Athletic Director Gene Brownell.

“He’s been such an inspiration over the years. When things went bad for you, he was always there to help you out. When things went good, he always kind of hid in the shadows,” Murley said. “That’s a really special person. It’s really special we can do it on this track with him being the meet director and with these kids and these coaches. It’s just been a great day.”

To view complete meet results, click on the following link:

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