SJAC track meet brings alumni home

By AUSTIN HAMM Sports Editor

The SDSU track and field team has a tradition of excellence that dates back to the NAIA national champion team in the 1950’s. That tradition has lead to an alumni group who have a vested interest in the performance of the team. 

When SDSU opened the new Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, alumni knew it would lead to bigger and better things for the program. When it was announced that the Jim Emmerich Invitational, the first major meet held in Brookings since the 80’s ,would include Alumni-only events, many of them jumped at the opportunity to compete in front of a “home” crowd. 

The meet program included two events, an Alumni Mile, as well as a 4×300 meter relay. There was also a 5K on the track the morning of the meet hosted by the local running club the Prairie Striders. 

One alumnus who did the full circuit was Martin Wennblom, a 2001 graduate. Wennblom won the morning 5K, then came back and finished fifth in the Alumni Mile later that day. He capped off his day of competition by running two of the four legs for his team’s 4×300.  

“It was amazing being home, like it always is,” Wennblom said. “I always make an effort to get back every year, and it was great to see so many alumni come back for this.” 

Coming back to compete was clearly a big draw for alumni, as the mile had 24 competitors in it. But Wennblom doesn’t think competition was the only thing that brought people back to Brookings. The history of the team also played a big role there. 

“It’s always interesting to see who’s going to carry it on here,” Wennblom said. “The alumni have high expectations, but that’s because we had those expectations placed on us.”

The expectations of the alumni were seemingly met this weekend as many Jacks turned in high level performances. 

On the women’s side, Jazzelena Black broke her own school record in the triple jump, recording a distance of 40-3.50 to become the first Jackrabbit to clear 40-0. Black, who placed second in the triple jump, tied for first in the long jump with a mark of 18-7.75, her second-best of the season.

In the 60-meter dash, Carly Carper captured her third-straight meet title, clocking in at 7.62. She owns the top six times in the 60-meter dash so far this season and posted a school-record time of 7.58 at the NDSU Invite Jan. 17. Carper also placed second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.73.

Mary Wirth won the high jump for the second time this season, posting a height of 5-10.50. She was the lone athlete to clear 5-7 at the meet. Lori Foltz picked up her first victory of the season, winning the 300-meter hurdles with a facility-best time of 44.28.

In the 600-meter run, Halie Mechels became the fifth Jackrabbit this season to etch her name into the school record book, joining Renae Dykstra, Marisa Shady, Karley Konkol and Bobbie McLaury. With a time of 1:40.72, she claimed sixth all-time. 

With a mark of 52-8.75 in the weight throw, Silvia Zanini moved to ninth from 10th in school history. Jessica Eibs posted the fastest mile time of the season to this point, placing fifth with a time of 5:02.23. Karley Konkol was not far behind, claiming seventh with a time of 5:03.14.

In the pole vault, Amy Leiferman (11-5.75) and Logan Amdahl (10-11.75) equaled their career-best marks, which rank second and sixth, respectively in school history. A week after cracking South Dakota State’s top-10, Kamelia Schneider tied Amdahl for sixth with a mark of 10-11.75. 

For the men, Jeremiah Ary won the triple jump meet title with a mark of 48-8.25, the fourth-best in school history. He also recorded a third-place finish in the long jump with a distance of 22-11.75.

The 4×400 meter relay team of Sam Johnson, Justin Carson, Austin Johnsen and Marc Husman ran a time of 3:18.83 en route to a third-place finish. The quartet’s time was good for fifth in school history.

Cullen Mack posted a career-best mark of 57-1.50 in the weight throw en route to a third-place finish. He remains slotted in third in South Dakota State history. For the second meet in a row, Austin Benson climbed in the school rankings, moving to sixth from seventh with a distance of 55-2.75.  

After cracking South Dakota State’s 60-meter dash top-10 list in the preliminaries, Bo Arnold moved into a tie for seventh with a time of 7.08 in the finals. He is one of four athletes to post this time, joining Craig Hill (2006), Corey Beffert (2008) and Joseph Bednar (2014).

Zach Schroeder posted the eighth-fastest time in school history in the 200-meter dash en route to a second-place finish, clocking in at 22.34. Dru Kenny (22.51) and Adam Halverson (22.54) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Halverson’s time ranks tied for 11th in school history.

In the preliminaries of the 60-meter dash, Schroeder ran a time of 7.13, one hundredth of a second shy of cracking two top-10 lists at the same meet. The freshman owns the fifth- (7.13) and sixth- (7.16) fastest times so far this season.

After posting a season-best mark of 6-8.25 in the high jump, Zach Koosman picked up his first win of the season. Koosman ranks tied for seventh in school history in this event with a mark of 6-8.75.

All marks, times, and places were taken from 

Next up for the Rabbits is the Jack Johnson Invite at the University of Minnesota on January 30 and 31. The next home meet at the SJAC will be the SDSU Indoor Invitational on Valentine’s Day weekend. 

Though the Jacks made major strides in this most recent home meet, seeing the new facility they have to work with has the alumni seeing bigger and better things on the horizon for the program. 

“When you think about the athletes that have come out of here in spite of the facilities we used to have, the new facility makes so much more possible. But they still have to put in the work,” Wennblom said. “(Head Coach) Rod (DeHaven) has done an amazing job in his time here, and he has a great vision for the future.”