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Photo finish provides special memory for Milbank Area runner

Milbank’s James Batchelor, right, falls to the finish line to take second place ahead of Vermillion Jack Freeburg, left, at the end of the anchor leg of the 3200 meter relay Thursday at the State Track and Field Meet at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. Photo by John Davis taken 5/26/2022

SIOUX FALLS – It’s not always about winning, but it is always about competing.

Milbank Area’s James Batchelor laid it all on the line, diving for the finish line to grab second place during the Class A 3,200-meter relay at the State Track and Field Meet Thursday afternoon at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

Batchelor edged Vermillion’s Jack Freeburg by a fraction of a second in the closest race of the opening day.

“I knew he was right behind me. That’s a team that I really wanted to focus on beating,” Batchelor said. “As I saw him coming up on my shoulder, I literally said out loud, ‘Not this time,’ because that was the same person that beat me last time (at Howard Wood). I just had to give everything. I dove for the finish and it was enough.”

Batchelor had a few bumps and bruises to show for his dive and was planning to get some medical attention for those. However, the runner-up finish made all the pain seem worthwhile.

“I just have to get them fixed up and it will be good,” Batchelor said.

He said the dramatic finish is something he will remember for a long time. The sophomore said it’s likely his best accomplishment in sports so far.

“That has to be probably the top, honestly,” Batchelor said. “That was so fun.”

Heidi Olson of Mobridge-Pollock also had a fight on her hands down the stretch, and like Batchelor was able to smile about it following the race.

The sophomore fought off a challenge from Lindsey Roth of Ethan-Parkston to lead the Tigers to victory in their heat of the sprint medley relay.

“I could see the shadow and I could hear people cheering, and I was just like I have to do this for my team,” Olson said. “My legs were so sore from running that 4X8 (earlier in the day), but I was like I just have to keep pushing.”

Mobridge-Pollock’s Heidi Olson, right, holds the lead ahead of Ethan/Parkston’s Lindsey Roth, center, as they run the last lap of their class A medley relay prelim Thursday at the State Track and Field Meet at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. Photo by John Davis taken 5/26/2022

Mobridge-Pollock entered the event as the third seed and gained an automatic entry into the finals with its heat win.

“It was very important,” Olson said of the victory. “We came in third and we were kind of unsure of how we would do. We don’t want to leave it up to times, because you never know how the times are going to end up, so it was just a must-win for us and we got it done.”

The Tigers ended up clocking the second fastest time in the prelims so they figure to be right in the mix for Saturday’s finals.

“Going into the finals, it’s all the fast runners in eight lanes,” Olson said. “You get rested that last day. It’s just who has the most grit to get that done.”

The meet featured seven events going on simultaneously. It is the first state meet where all three classes are competing at the same venue over a three-day period.

Groton’s Aspen Johnson competed in the state meet last season, but said this year’s meet has a much different atmosphere.

“This one feels a lot different. There’s a lot more people,” Johnson said. “It’s just a lot more chaos compared to last year. It’s kind of all over the place.”

Johnson, who competed in the triple jump, said it was a challenge focusing while another jumping event was taking place right next to the one she was competing in.

“I was running and all of a sudden someone yelled, and I looked over a little bit and it kind of screwed me up,” Johnson said. “You learn to focus in.”

Groton Area’s Aspen Johnson leaps for the pit in the class A girls triple jump Thursday at the State Track and Field Meet at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. Photo by John Davis taken 5/26/2022

The junior said competing on such a big stage is nerve-wrecking, but she plans to use the experience going forward to her senior season when she is involved in other events.

“Being in this environment definitely will help when you go into other events and when you know you’re nervous,” Johnson said. “You just have to think back to things like this and then it’s like, oh I’ve been here and done this before.”

To see complete opening day results, click on the following link:

https://results.dakotatiming.com/display.html?event_id=1003

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