Milliseconds separate the winner from everyone else in a sprinter’s world. In the 100-meter dash, strength and burst hold the key to shaving time. The 400, by comparison, puts a premium on pace and strategy.
The 200-meter dash combines elements of both. From leaving the blocks to slingshotting out of the curve to pumping hard down the homestretch, it’s full on for some 22-or-so seconds — but it’s not quite a sprint from start to finish.
On Friday in the boys 200-meter special event at the 90th Howard Wood Dakota Relays, eight of the region’s best will do their part to be just fast enough to bring home gold.
Oddly enough, the best chance for South Dakota to retain the 200-meter crown — former Washington High star Nate Gerry won in 2013 with a record-setting time 21.52 seconds — might well come from a replacement who’s relatively new to the sport: Roosevelt’s Chase Vinatieri.
“SDSU is recruiting him for a reason — he’s a special athlete,” Roosevelt track coach Jason Wagoner said of Vinatieri, one of a few Rough Riders pursuing a gridiron future in Brookings.
Vinatieri will step in for teammate and friend Taryn Christion — the state long jump champion who injured his hamstring at the finish line at a meet over the weekend in Norfolk and has South Dakota’s second best time in the 100 this year (10.6).
Christion is day-to-day and might appear in a few events this weekend, but the Riders are in capable hands with Vinatieri in the 200 special. The senior’s 21.9 finish Friday in Nebraska — good for second in the 200 — isn’t just the fastest South Dakota time this season, but is also the best this year among a stacked field that includes out-of-state gems.
“I was excited about the time he ran on Friday, but he was bummed,” Wagoner said. “He’s the kid that when he steps on the track, he wants to win the race.”
A pair of North Dakota standouts — Minot’s Karter Gorney and Bismarck’s Hunter Johnson — will offer a stiff challenge. An NDSU track recruit, Gorney won the state 100m as a sophomore and claimed the top 200 time in N.D. over the weekend with 21.97. Johnson was milliseconds behind, finishing 22.0 flat, and is similarly on Gorney’s heels in the 100.
“They’ve had a great competition this spring — they bring out the best in each other,” said Bismarck coach Dave Zittleman. “Karter has proven himself as a great North Dakota sprinter, and Hunter is working on catching up to him. It’s been great to watch these two race.”
Joining Vinatieri from the Class AA field are Watertown’s Mason Hericks and Damian Hall of Spearfish. Hericks placed third at state in the 200 a year ago, and the junior holds the Arrows’ school record in the event at an absurd 21.62 seconds. In 2015, his 22.2 time is tied for second-best in the state along with Hall. The Spearfish senior could be peaking at the right time.
South Dakota’s remaining two classes also have an entrant in Friday’s special event. Groton Area’s Landon Larson carries the ‘A’ torch, while Freeman’s Brennan Schmidt leads the charge for ‘B’.
Larson won the state ‘A’ 400-meter dash a year ago, and his PR of 22.15 in the 200 earned him a second-place finish. The senior also owns school records in the 200 and 400. Schmidt, a USD track recruit, anchored a pair of state championships in the 1,600 relay the past two years to go with a ‘B’ title in the 400.
Hinton, Iowa, senior Blake Mossberg rounds out Friday’s competitors. Mossberg was the 2A runner up in both the 100 and 200 as a junior. The Briar Cliff recruit holds a PR of 22.65 in the 200, and owns school records in the 100, 200 and 800-and-1,600 medley relays.
Friday’s field includes a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, but the competition level will be apparent from the get go.
“You see the best of the best at this meet, and it makes kids rise to the occasion,” Wagoner says. “In these special events especially, they turn the lights on and kids get fired up about it.”
Weather permitting, Friday’s top contenders might even shave milliseconds off the tremendous times they bring in. The special event is unique in that it’s competitors usually have fresh legs.
That could be all the difference between finding a spot atop the podium or looking up at the champion.
AT A GLANCE
Special event: Boys 200-meter dash
When/where: Friday, 7:25 p.m., Howard Wood Field
Online: Watch live video of the race with interviews and analysis at argusleader.com
MEET THE RUNNERS
Landon Larson | School: Groton Area senior
Chase Vinatieri | School: Roosevelt senior
Damian Hall | School: Spearfish senior
Karter Gorney | School: Minot (N.D.) senior
Hunter Johnson | School: Bismarck (N.D.) junior
Mason Hericks | School: Watertown junior
Blake Mossberg | School: Hinton (Iowa) senior
Brennan Schmidt | School: Freeman senior