The Howard Wood Dakota Relays made their return Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D., after a year off due to renovations at the stadium in 2012, and members of the Marshall girls' track team found themselves in the midst of the prestigious event that features some of the top prep and collegiate athletes in the Upper Midwest.
Marshall girls' track coach Marie Sample likes it whenever her team members can go up against the top competition available, and this weekend many of the best track and field athletes in the region are in Sioux Falls.
"I told them that we need a pre-section meet, a meet that can prepare us for when we get to sections," Sample said. "When we got (to Howard Wood Field) they were like, 'Wow, this is bigger than Hamline (the host of the Minnesota state meet)." It's great that they can get a taste of this atmosphere and this level of competition before sections."
Marshall sophomore Sarah Buysse, a state qualifier last year, ran two races Friday, which is the first day of the two-day competition. She started out by placing 26th in the prelims of the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.38 seconds. She came back with a stronger performance in the 400 dash, where she finished 14th out of 40 competitors with a time of 1:02.37.
"She didn't make the semis in the 100 but she hasn't been working on sprint training very much and she's had to miss some races," Sample said. "Especially in sprinting, this was a rough meet to throw her into. With it being a cold and windy day, I thought she competed well."
The Tigers' 4x800 relay team that has state aspirations held its own against the stout competition Friday. The Marshall team of Madi Verschaetse, Nichole Sample, Claire Boersma and Jenna Christianson placed fourth with a time of 9:55.30. Aberdeen Central (S.D.) won with a time of 9:36.24.
"That was a good time for them," Marie Sample said of her relay team. "Madi started out with a 2:27, which is her fastest time of the year. Nichole didn't have a PR day for her, but Claire crushed it with a 2:25 and then Jenna anchored with a 2:29.
"I thinking we were ranked sixth coming in and ended up fourth. They got medals at Howard Wood so they were pretty pumped about that."
The Tigers are back at the Dakota Relays today. Andrew Bell, the lone Marshall boy that made the trip and a cross country state qualifier from the fall, will run the 3,200 in the early morning and a handful of Tiger girls will compete throughout the rest of the day.