Published: Thursday, June 5th, 2014
For the second straight year, the Custer High School boys are the kings of Class A track in South Dakota.
This year, however, the team needed every point it could get.
Bolstered by championships by all three relay teams it had entered in the meet, the Wildcat boys track team won the team championship at the 2014 Class A State Track Meet last weekend in Madison and Sioux Falls, tallying 103 points to runner-up Dell Rapids’ 85 points, not nearly the huge margin of victory the team enjoyed a year ago, although the Wildcats scored a similar number of points themselves.
The Wildcats’ victory was already wrapped up going into the final race of the meet, the 1600 relay, but the team of Chase Glazier, Clayton Wahlstrom, Brennan Witt and Joel Thomsen put the cherry on top of the state championship by winning the race, nipping St. Thomas More by .03 seconds as Witt, running the anchor leg, beat More’s anchor, Riley Scherr, who earlier had placed third in the open 400, to the line, posting a time of 3:26.59 for the Wildcats as a team.
“As long as the team did not (get disqualified), we had the meet won,” Custer head coach Craig Black said.âï¿½ï¿½“But that is not the way the seniors wanted to finish the meet.”
The four never trailed the entire race.
“Going down the stretch, we were battling,”âï¿½ï¿½Witt said of his anchor leg run. “He kept speeding up; I kept speeding up.”
Witt said even though the team already knew they had the team championship wrapped up going into the race, they were determined to go out in style with another gold medal in the meet’s final event.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½thought that would be the perfect way to cap off my high school career,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“I wanted the gold for my other teammates. They just ran their butts off in that race.”
Also victorious at the meet was the 3200 team of Israel Parsons, Logan Burns, Shane Herman and Glazier, whose time of 8:14.10 was the third fastest time ever for Custer High School, and provided a margin of victory of just under a second. Glazier ran a dominant anchor leg, running away from his Madison counterpart.
In a thrilling medley relay race, Witt again beat another anchor to the line to secure a championship for the ’Cats. This time his victim was Hot Springs’ Eric Yager, who had won the 1600 earlier in the day. The Bison medley relay team had been solid all year, and beat Custer in the event at the Howard Wood Dakota relays.
Yager cut in front of Witt on the home stretch of the two’s 800 meter duel on the final leg of the relay before Witt went out to lane three and started his surge to the finish, catching him and beating him to the line.
“It took a really long time for the announcement to be made,” Black said.âï¿½ï¿½“That usually means that they had to look at it on the cameras from both sides and took it down to the thousandths of seconds to declare a winner.”
Custer was eventually declared the winner by .01, simply because they don’t announce times in the thousandths.
When Witt took the baton from Glazier, the team was in fifth place. Within 200 yards Witt had worked his way into the third spot, and he and Yager remained with the pack until 300 meters were left. From there, it was a two-man race to the finish.
“When he cut me off, I had to slow up,”âï¿½ï¿½Witt said.
Little did Yager know, in doing so, he only aided Witt’s running. Witt admits that Yager cutting him off made him mad.
“The thought crosses your mind that I could finish second, but that wasn’t going to be good enough for me,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “I wanted the gold, so that’s what I went for. I found another gear.”
When Witt wasn’t anchoring thrilling relays he was becoming a four-time state champion in the 800 and solidifying himself as one of the greatest runners in both school and state history, once again winning his best event in dominant fashion, posting a time of 1:56.84.
Shortly after accomplishing his four-for-four feat, the emotion spilled out of Witt, who said winning four straight 800 state championships was a goal of his from the moment he entered high school.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “I won my first 800 (state title) on the exact same track I won my last one.”
The emotion grew even stronger as he stood on the podium to receive his gold medal, as he saw his father, assistant track coach Walker Witt, himself a former Wildcat standout, on the track, beaming with pride.
“My dad was so excited when I was standing on the podium,” he said.âï¿½ï¿½“Accomplishing that goal feels really great.”
The Wildcats actually had three team members on the podium for the 800, as Glazier finished fifth in the race at 2:01.50, while Parsons picked up an eighth place finish at 2:04.66.
The sight of three Wildcats on the podium became a common theme during the meet, as it happened three other times. In the 3200 Logan Burns claimed the team’s other individual championship, as he blasted the field by 15 seconds to finish at 10:13.41, making it look easy even though he had run a very hard 800 earlier in the day in the winning 3200 relay.
“There were quite a few people who took off pretty fast,”âï¿½ï¿½Burns said of his open 3200 race.
Burns was in the middle of the pack at the outset of the race, but by the end of the first lap he had opened up a lead, and did his best to maintain a consistent pace. Burns, who earlier in the year had ran the same race in 9:38, said that while he was a little disappointed with his time, he certainly wasn’t disappointed in the outcome.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½was kind of hoping for a little better of a time,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “But it worked out. I can’t be too mad about it.”
Also placing in the open 3200 for Custer was Chance Dooley, who came into the race seeded ninth but ran his way to a fourth place finish at a time of 10:31.77, while Shane Herman finished seventh, also after running a leg of the 3200 relay, at a time of 10:45.12.
Three ’Cats placed in the 1600, led by Parsons’ second place finish at 4:34.23. He was followed closely by Burns, who finished fourth at 4:34.74, and Witt, the defending champion in the event, who ran a time of 4:42.51, good for seventh place. Parsons, who was celebrating his birthday on the same day, went into the race seeded in sixth place.
The final event that saw three Wildcats take to the podium was the pole vault, where one of the most competitive vaulting events in years took place, with Wahlstrom finishing fourth with a top height of 13-0. David Sigdestad finished sixth in the event by clearing 12-0, while Sam Mertz returned from a torn triceps early in the season to clear 11-6, good for seventh place.
Despite the Wildcats racking up points throughout the meet, Dell Rapids refused to go away. The Quarriers started the second day by winning the 100, taking second in both the 400 and 800 relay and going first, third and fifth in the triple jump. The result was Quarriers and Wildcats sitting tied with 71 points each.
“That’s when the boys found another gear,” Black said.
Joel Thomsen ran his best time ever in the 300 hurdle finals, 40.73, which put him in third place. Thomsen also placed fifth in the 110 hurdles at a time of 15.88.
After Thomsen placed third in the 300 hurdles, the brothers Climenti got into the scoring act, as Angelo placed fourth in the discus with a throw of 150-4, and Paul placing eighth at 141-7.
The Wildcat girls set a goal of finishing in the top four at the meet, but had those hopes dashed when Tori Glazier was robbed of the chance to defend her 1600 title from a year ago due to injury.
The injury first occurred at the Rapid City Track-O-Rama, where Glazier said she didn’t cool down correctly after a race and tightened up. The result was both groin and hip flexor issues, which continued to bother her throughout the remainder of the season, despite physical therapy and rest.
Glazier did defend her 800 title however, running away with the event at a time of 2:19.40. She also anchored the girls’ 3200 relay team, which placed third at 9:55.27, the third fastest time in school history. Joining Glazier on the team were Julianne Thomsen, Matti Kelley and Billie Wicks.
Glazier won the 800 despite running the entire race in pain from her injuries.
“I just kind of ran through it,”âï¿½ï¿½she said.âï¿½ï¿½“At least I got the win. Hopefully Iâï¿½ï¿½will feel better next year and have no injuries.”
Glazier said she hoped to break the state meet record of 2:16, which she said she felt she could have done, if not for the injury. Once she took the lead in the second lap she said she tried to pull away, but her injury prevented her from doing so too much.
“I was hurting,”âï¿½ï¿½she said. “The last stretch I was like, Iâï¿½ï¿½figured if I wasn’t going to be able to run the next day (in the 1600), Iâï¿½ï¿½was not losing that race.”
In addition to being on the third place relay team, Thomsen placed third in the 300 hurdles, breaking her own school record in doing so with a time of 46.39. Another girl who had a best-ever performance for Custer at the meet was Lauren Esser, who placed seventh in the shot put with a throw of 36-3 1/2. The throw was a foot further than she had ever thrown in a meet.
Sioux Falls Christian ended up winning the girls team championship, besting St. Thomas More by a score of 119-98. Custer finished in 11th place with 27 points.
“We had a great state track meet and a great year,”âï¿½ï¿½Black said. “The kids worked and competed as a team. We are going to miss our seniors dearly, but are excited about the track athletes in the wings for Custer.”
Burns said it feels good to be a part of two state championship teams in track in the past two years, particularly since prior to the past two years, it had been decades since Custer won a track title.
“To come back and do it back-to-back like that is pretty special,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“Since it was so much harder to get this one this year with Dell Rapids being right there with us, that made it even better.”
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