Howard Wood Dakota Relays: What To Watch For

It’s here, friends.

Today marks the start of the 92nd Howard Wood Dakota Relays, one of the most storied track and field meets in the upper Midwest.

It’s an event that started in the 1920s - 1923, to be exact - and continues to get better and better, with over 3000 individual athletes and 130-plus teams set to compete in Sioux Falls this time around.

It’s not just about the numbers, though.

This meet is about QUALITY.

You won’t find a better collection of the top high school track and field athletes from North and South Dakota anywhere, and with the addition of some of the top preps from Minnesota, Iowa and even Colorado this year, the field’s as deep and as decorated as ever.

It’s becoming more and more common for every event to feel like a Special Event, and that’s going to be the case again this time around.

With that said, the two High School Special Events will be must-see T&F on Friday night again this year, and if you’re looking for a full preview of the Girls Special 800m and the Boys Special 200m, check out this week’s episode of “Varsity Sports” here: 

If you're curious as to what else is going on, Jason Andera and I have you covered in our latest MidcoSN podcast, which you can listen to here or download via I-Tunes or SoundCloud:


The pod’s about 46 minutes – and that’s with me talking as fast as I can to try to save time – but if you don’t have three-quarters of an hour to burn or just need the basics of what we discussed in writing for future reference, here you go...

Special Specials

As mentioned above, DO NOT miss this year’s special events. The Girls Special 800m (Friday, 7:25pm) is as even a field as we’ve had in recent years, with all eight capable of 2:16 or better. Edina’s Emily Kompelien has the top PR in the group, with a 2:11 split and a 2:13 open time to her credit from last season, but Lincoln’s Jasmyne Cooper, Custer’s Tori Glazier and Salida, Colorado’s Taryn Ceglowski have the ability to pull of something equally as impressive Friday night, not to mention the rest of a star-studded field that’s won a combined 16 individual state track titles. Expect a close race and a great finish.   

In the Boys Special 200m (Friday, 8pm), Denzel Brown of Eden Prairie is the one to watch. The 2016 Minnesota 2A state champ in the 200m and state runner-up in the 100m, Brown put up a 21.62 clocking only a week ago to take the aptly named Hamline Elite Meet crown in the Twin Cities. That’s only a tenth off the Dakota Relays 200 record set back in 2013 by then-Sioux Falls Washington stand-out/current-Philadelphia Eagle draft pick Nate Gerry, a fact I’m sure Brown’s aware of. However, don’t discount a strong South Dakota contingent led by Winner star Cameron Kuil, Jake Aanderud of St. Thomas More, and Collin Brison of Sioux Falls Lincoln, among others. If Brown doesn’t hit the heights of recent performances, this field is more than capable to take advantage.

Records In Danger

In the high school ranks, six Dakota Relays records were broken in 2014. Seven went down in 2015. Ten – TEN!! – were erased a year ago.

Of those ten high school records, most were of the relay variety. Only three were set by individuals, with two broken by the same person – Jedah Caldwell of Chanhassen in the 100m and 200m – and the other by Kiana Phelps of Kingsley-Pierson/Woodbury Central in the discus.

For context, Caldwell – the greatest female sprinter in Minnesota prep history – is now competing in the Big XII at Kansas, and Phelps – the top-ranked high school discus thrower in America two years ago – is turning heads in the Pac 12 at Oregon.

In short, you have to be good – REALLY good – to set a record at the Dakota Relays, and that’s why it’s such a big deal that we could have up to SIX individual high school records broken this weekend.

We’ve already mentioned Denzel Brown of Eden Prairie and his opportunity to do something special in the 200m, but he’s got a better shot to get the 100m record when’s all said and done. 10.64 is the current mark set by Slade Hinrichs of West Central 15 years ago, and Brown’s run under that by over a tenth at 10.53 seconds. If that’s not enough, he’ll likely get three cracks at it with the prelims and semis Friday afternoon and the finals Saturday at 5pm.

Speaking of Saturday, you won’t want to miss the girls 1600m showdown at 1:05pm. Grand Forks Central’s Karly Ackley and Edina’s Emily Kompelien have both run under Yankton/Notre Dame great Ramsey Kavan’s 2005 meet record of 4:55.09, plus the “chase” pack will include four other runners from the Special 800m from the night before and a host of other talented distance specialists. If I’m watching one race this weekend, this would be it.

The other four records that are in various levels of jeopardy are all in field events. Kiana Phelps’ younger brother, Nick, has the top shot put throw in the field by nine feet at 65-10, but even though he’ll likely fall a few feet short of Beresford/USD great Kyle McKelvey’s 69-3 effort from 2011, he’s got a great chance to get the better of McKelvey’s old Coyote teammate in the discus. Phelps’ PR of 191-7 is one inch better than the meet record throw of Andes Central grad Cody Snyder from 2010, and if conditions are right, we could have another Phelps on the all-time record book by Saturday afternoon.

Then there’s the girls long jump, which features the oldest high school girls record still standing. Bonnie DeBoer of Iowa’s Hull Western Christian launched 18-11 ¾ in 1978 to set the meet record, but while it’s not been touched since, all that could change on Saturday afternoon. Anna Keefer of St. Michael-Albertville (Minnesota, not Alberta) has a PR of – ready for this? – 19-10, a mark she set in taking the US AAU Junior Olympic title this past fall. She’s also the defending champ in this event and at the MNHS 2A state meet. Plus, she’s a North Carolina commit, so if she gets the record, she’ll go alongside fellow Tar Heel/former Brookings great/triple jump record holder Alexis Gannon on the all-time Dakota Relays record book. Fitting, right?

Speaking of triple jump, watch out Friday night at 6pm for the high school boys TJ, where Sage Hagen of Rapid City Central is within a half-inch of Spearfish’s Gavin Cordell’s record of 46-5 set in 2010. Hagen’s got the power and the coaching to pull this off, and he’ll be pushed in the competition from a pair of talented North Dakota jumpers (defending Class A state champ Devon Pope of Grand Forks Red River and current NDHS leader Brandon Lewis of Bismarck Legacy) as well as Tyl Woelber of Pipestone. Record or not, this should be a great competition to watch unfold.

Last but not least, don’t sleep on Michelle Johnson of Rapid City Central doing something special in the high jump Saturday at noon. The senior has already cleared 5-8 this season, and even though she’d have to go nearly two inches higher to 5-9 ¾ to match Stanley County/Purdue great Sam Ostarello’s record, it’s not out of the question.

(…I know that’s seven potential records, not six, but I’m in the giving mood.)

Other Can't-Miss Events

For the sake of brevity, here’s an all-too-quick rundown of the individual events I’m most looking forward to outside of what’s already been discussed:

HS Boys Pole Vault, Friday at 3:30pm – A pair of 15-2 ESD vaulters - Trent Francom of Huron and Noah Spartz of Watertown – face off for the title, Platinum bragging rights and a chance to move up on the all-time South Dakota record book.

HS Girls 3200m, Friday at 8:10pm – Ironically, all-time North Dakota two-mile record holder Karly Ackley has to go to Sioux Falls to be tested by the best distance runners in her home state. Kelby Anderson of Bismarck Century, newly-ponytailed Mattie Shirley Fairbairn of Bismarck and Sioux Falls Lincoln state cross country champion Courtney Klatt should provide the most resistance.

HS Boys 3200m, Friday at 8:40pm – A who’s-who in the best distance runners in all classes in North and South Dakota – all that’s missing is Hunter Lucas of Fargo Davies – but as good as this race could be, the 1600m on Saturday at 1:30pm could be even better.

HS Boys High Jump, Saturday at 9pm – No Zack Anderson going for 7-feet this year – he’ll be jumping for USD Friday at 5pm – but his heir apparent in South Dakota’s Class B has been making a name for himself this spring. Allan McDonnell of Wall cleared 6-9 earlier this week and should give the always pro-high jump crowd at Howard Wood something to cheer about.

HS Boys 400m Finals, Saturday at 4:40pm – Surely someone’s going to join Minot’s Logan Goheen in the sub-50 club this weekend, right? Reigning Class B quarter champ Logan Hansen’s done it on the stopwatch. Here’s his chance to make a statement via fully automatic timing. Don’t sleep on Hillsboro/Central Valley’s Shandon Toenis or O’Gorman’s Andrew Reuter, either.

HS Girls 100m Hurdles, Saturday at 4:45pm – If you’re not on board with the Elizabeth Schaefer Era yet, there’s still room on the bandwagon. But while the Rapid City Stevens hurdles ace still has two more years of Class AA dominance ahead, Fargo Davies’ Kaia Beil – a two-time defending state champ in her own right – could prove to be the toughest competition she’s faced yet.

…Okay. At this point, I’m basically just listing every individual event as one to watch, so that’s a good cue to shut it down. Enjoy the 92nd Howard Wood Dakota Relays, and relive it with us on Wednesday at 6:30pm on “Varsity Sports” on MidcoSN!

Filed Under Varsity Sports | ND High School | SD High School | Running/Track and Field