If you’re good enough to finish second, then you’re good enough to be disappointed that you didn’t win.
That’s a mindset that Roosevelt’s grown accustomed to — but not content with — in the past few years as city rival Lincoln did most of the talking with regard to athletic championships.
“Honestly, at Roosevelt High, we were starting to think that we were second to everyone,” said Coach Jason Wagoner, acknowledging the Riders’ recent runner-up finish to the Patriots in football, soccer, cross country and, last year, in track and field. “And here we are and it’s Lincoln and Roosevelt going after each other for a state championship again.”
There would be no disappointment Saturday, though, as Roosevelt’s boys squad ran away with the team title for its first state track crown since 2000 (tied with Yankton). Roosevelt finished with 129.5 points and second-place Lincoln had 102. Spearfish and Rapid City Stevens (64) tied for third, with Washington (59.5) rounding out the top five.
Still, one Rough Rider — departing senior and budding gridiron star Taryn Christion — had to endure a few more second-place finishes before feasting upon championship sweetness.
Christion, who is headed to South Dakota State to play football, fell a few inches short Friday of defending his long jump title. He endured a runner-up finish (10.93 seconds) to Damian Hall of Spearfish (10.77) on Saturday in the 100-meter dash. When it came time for the Riders’ coveted 400 and 800 relays, the senior anchor delivered — and Roosevelt earned gold in both events.
“We just really wanted to get the baton around the track today,” Christion said. “It’s kind of bittersweet crossing the finish line for the last time, but it was good to finish first for that last event.”
Speaking of last events, Roosevelt capped the weekend by winning day’s final race — the 1,600-meter relay. Washington’s Tanner Waddell got the Warriors started, with Alipo Oluak pacing them with a stellar second leg before giving way to Alex Derr and 400-dash runner-up Isaiah Feterl. It appeared to be Washington’s race, when Roosevelt’s Mayuen Akok surged down the stretch to seize the lead.
Akok delivered a title in the 300 hurdles (39.72 seconds) and took second in the 110 hurdles earlier in the day, adding to strong finishes by Chase Vinatieri (third in 100 and 200), Josh Goehring (third in 800; fifth in 400), Jesus Urtusuastegui (third in 1,600).
“All year we’ve been preaching that we wanted to win the team championship,” said senior Kolby Scott, who gave the Riders a spark as the third-leg in the winning 800 relay team. “We didn’t care about individual events.”
Scott, a standout soccer player the Riders, was a new addition to track this season. Vinatieri, another multi-sport athlete who will play football at SDSU in the fall, also decided to go out for track to cap his athletic prep career.
Those additions paid dividends.
“If those two kids don’t come out, we’re not standing here talking about a state championship,” Wagoner said.
While the Riders haven’t lacked for talent in recent years, improved depth this season was the difference.
“It’s a weight lifted off of my shoulders,” Wagoner said. “We’ve been close the past two years, but we had things go wrong at the state meet. This time, it went as well as it could have and even exceeded what I thought we could do.”
The second-place Patriots had their own high marks Saturday. Senior Ned Sudbeck won the 400 amid a stacked field, overcoming Washington’s Feterl down the stretch.
“I really wanted to win that, so I was just giving it my all and kind of surged ahead a little bit,” said Sudbeck, who took second Friday in the 800. “It’s great — it’s something that I’ve been working for all my high school career.”
Sudbeck’s coach, Jim Jarovski, pointed out that his senior sprinter joins an accomplished list of 400 dash titleholders from Lincoln: Brett Anderson won three times from 2007-09, while Gemechu Gody (2012) and Adam Belhaj (’14) also earned titles.
“Ned fits into that group,” Jarovski said. “He’s one of the premier runners we’ve ever had at Lincoln in terms of work ethic and the type of kid that he is.”
Lincoln’s Will Lauer, meanwhile, was unable to keep going the fireworks that led to a state-record finish in the 3,200 on Friday. Against friend and rival Jacob Simmons of Sturgis, Lauer lacked the extra late-race gear that helped him secure a title in the 1,600 at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays.
Instead Lauer finished second, as Simmons powered his way to “AA” Outstanding Athlete honors. Simmons also set a state-meet record Friday in the 800.
“Those guys are obviously exceptional athletes,” Jarovski said. “I think you flip a coin and one of them’s going to win one day, and one’s going to win the next day. It was a battle to the end, and Jacob got him.”
Rounding out the top Patriot finishers were Nate Schroeder (fourth in 1,600), Evan Hieber (third, high jump), and Nickel Meyers (sixth, high jump).
For fifth-place Washington, the aforementioned 1,600 relay team and Feterl were joined by Waddell (third, 300 hurdles) and Ty Smith (sixth, 110 hurdles).
O’Gorman’s Jack Peery (6-3) took second to Spearfish’s Jaxon Hinch (6-4). Tiegen Lindner finished fifth in the 1,600 and sixth in the 800 for the Knights. Dodi Makwinja took seventh in the 100 (11.27).
Harrisburg’s Paul Paul finished sixth in the 100 (11.21 seconds) fourth in the 200 (22.36) and sixth in the 400 (51.44).