Boys second, girls third at state track meet

Blake Boyster capped one of the most decorated sprinting careers in Custer High School history with two more gold medals last weekend at the South Dakota Class A State Track Meet, and added a pair of silvers for good measure.
Boyster won the 400 for the third straight year, posting a time of 48.96, which was the fastest time across all classes by .03, while also winning the 200 at a time of 22.69.
“I feel really good about the meet,” Boyster said. “I was really happy about the 200, 400 and four by four (relay). Not so much the 100, but not everything is going to pan out the way you want it to.”
In the aforementioned 100, Boyster finished in third place with a time of 11.03. Boyster said he didn’t ever train specifically  for the 100, focusing more on the 200 and 400.
In the 200-meter final Boyster broke out to an early lead, something he had done most of the year. He added that every 200 he ran this year was into a headwind—including at the state meet when the wind hit him as he headed down the home stretch. From there he credits his dedication to working out as helping him prevail.
“I started to gap everyone,” he said. “I think I was just stronger than everyone else physically.”
Boyster entered the 400 final as the top seed, saying he had high expectations for himself while knowing he would likely have to go under 49 seconds to win the gold.
Boyster knew James Pierce of Lead-Deadwood, another top seed, would come out hard, and he was determined to beat Pierce in the first 200 of the race.
The last 200 was all guts, Boyster said, as the wind picked up and with around 75 meters to go a gust knocked all the runners back.
“I knew I had to power through it,” he said. “It was really painful to be honest.”
Custer head coach Karen Karim said she was excited to see Boyster win the overall gold in the 400, saying she believes it gave him a lift after his third-place finish in the 100, a race in which he was defending champion.
Boyster leaves Custer High School with six state titles—three in the 400, two in the 200 and one in the 100—as well as a handful of silver and bronze medals. He anchored the silver medal-winning 1600 relay at the meet, as he joined forces with Sam Gaulke, Gage Grohs and Drew Lehman to post a time of 3:27.71.
“I’m really happy with how my track career turned out,” Boyster said. “I never would have thought I’d have this many titles.”
Boyster said setting the 400 school record—which was 40 years old when he beat it this year—was a goal he was proud to achieve, and he also said he enjoyed meeting the man whose record he eclipsed, Walker Witt.
“He congratulated me for it,” Boyster said. “It was really nice to meet him.”
Boyster will continue his track career in college, as he is set to attend North Dakota State University in Fargo.
For the next week or so, he said, he will relax and recover, then it’s back into training for his college career.
The Wildcats’ other state championship came from pole vault prodigy Ciana Stiefel, who cleared a Class A meet and personal record height of 12-8. That height was good for the overall gold for all classes.
Stiefel won the event by over two feet, so the only real drama regarding the competition was how high she would go.
“I went in going against what height I can get and not really thinking about winning it, necessarily,” Stiefel said. “It’s pretty amazing (winning the state championship). It’s definitely a goal I’ve been working toward all year.”
What makes Stiefel’s record-breaking heights and championship even more impressive is that she has only been pole vaulting a little over two years. That occured in gymnastics, with a mother of a fellow gymnast suggesting she give it a try.
“I was kind of reluctant to try it, but I kind of fell in love with it right away,” she said.
How did Stiefel get so good so fast?
“I think the gymnastics background helped,” she said, “and putting in a lot of hard work and training.”
Stiefel said she will continue to train all summer and will attend Nike Nationals in the near future. She will also tour the U.S. Track and Field Association circuit this summer. An immediate goal is to clear 13 feet.
“And keep getting higher heights after that,” she said.
Karim marvels at how Stiefel performs her best on the biggest stages, such as the state meet and Howard Wood Dakota Relays.
“She’s calm, cool and collected and takes care of her business,” she said. “That was exciting for her.”
The boys finished with 45 points, well behind Sioux Falls Christian, which crushed the competition with 153 points.
Other Wildcat places included Robbie Emery finishing fourth in the pole vault with a top height of 13-6 and the 3200 relay team of Lehman, Gaulke, Grohs and Jackson Wiles finishing fifth at 8:20.16.
Lehman also picked up a fifth-place finish in the 800 with a personal record time of 1:58.94, a time that Karim pointed out was the third fastest time in school history.
On the girls side, Jojo Larsen had the closest race of the meet, as she placed second to Mount Vernon-Plankinton’s Berkeley Engelland by .01 second in the 100, running a time of 12.37.
The race began with a false start, which was assigned to the field. When the race finally took off and finished, Karim thought Larsen had won the race with a better lean.
“She could have won by a hair, or lost by a hair,” Karim said. “It was a great race for her.”
Larsen took an individual bronze medal in the 200, running a time of 27.08, and was also a part of the third-place finishing medley relay team. She was joined by Kylee Ellerton, Maya Tennyson and Ramsey Karim to post a time of 4:17.81.
Eighth-grader Jayda Bennett placed in both hurdle events, running the 100 hurdles in 16.05, good for seventh place, while running the 300 hurdles in a personal best time of 48.25, which was good for seventh place.
Ramsey Karim capped her career with a fifth-place finish in the 1600 at a time of 5:13.41, a personal best, and an eighth-place finish in the 3200 at a time of 11:20.88. These two races were more evidence of the eye-popping times put up at the meet, as Karim’s 3200 time was fast enough to win the state meet several times over the past years.
Brit Wheeler finished in sixth place in the 800 in a personal record time of 2:22.02, while Alice Sedlacek was seventh in the discus with a top throw of 121-11.
Rounding out the Custer places were the 1600 relay team of Taylor Busch, Rachel Miklos, Karim and Larsen finishing seventh at 4:12.16, and the 3200 team of Kiran Pesicka, Busch, Sedlacek and Wheeler in seventh at 10:01.79.
The girls finished with 49 points. Winner Sioux Falls Christian finished with 126.5 points.
“The end result was about what we expected,” Coach Karim said. “You always have high hopes that maybe something will pop a little better. Nobody was going to touch Sioux Falls Christian in the boys or girls. We gave it a run.”
Karim credited her assistant coaches for helping brings the athletes along this year, and points out that many of the top placewinners for the Wildcats will return to the track next year.
“Hopefully they got a taste of it this year and will come back and on to bigger and better things next year,” she said. “I’m proud of our kids.”


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