FARGO — Those who have followed the Valley City High School track and field team probably recognize the name “Engelhard.”
After all, Wayne Engelhard was a state champion in the 800 meter run, and more recently has been a two-time qualifier for the NAIA national meet at Valley City State University.
But this year, there’s a different Engelhard looking to make a difference for the Hi-Liners. Wayne’s brother, Casey, has been among the younger athletes to find his footing as part of the VCHS track and field team early in the season.
At Monday’s Thundering Herd Classic at the Bison Sports Arena, Casey had a third place finish in the 800 meter run against competition from Eastern Dakota Conference schools including Fargo Davies and Fargo Shanley.
That said, it wasn’t even Casey’s plan originally to follow his brother into distance running.
“I never thought that I would be running long distances until I ran with him one day,” Casey said. “I suddenly liked running.”
It’s proven to be a bonding point for the brothers, Casey said. When they can, they’ll run together. Along the way, it’s also given Casey a chance to pick up some tricks of the trade, whether it’s avoiding being boxed in or simply finding a good pace.
Now, Casey looks to have a bright future on the team.
He’s started the season with two successful races in the 800, though he struggled in the 1,500 meter, placing 14th Monday.
He’s hoping he can eventually clinch a state berth in one of the two races.
Still, he said, it’s better than his eighth grade season. Last year, he was sick for nearly two months, which hurt him all season.
“The times that I’m running during practice this year are faster than what I ran during most races last year,” he said.
Even better, he’s not the only one.
Though Valley City had its fair share of high finishers at the Thundering Herd Classic, it was the younger crowd that impressed VCHS coach Trevor Bakalar early in the season.
“That’s the big thing, that our younger athletes are achieving some success,” Bakalar said.
In the 800 and 1,500 hundred for the boys, it was Engelhard. For the girls, there was quite a younger crowd.
Senior Allyson Suhr led VC’s distance runners with a 5th place finish in the 800 and 4th place in the 1,500, but some runners who came in closely after her included freshmen April Berntson (10th and 6th in the 800 and 1,500) and Barbra Zubrod (13th and 10th), along with 8th grader Mikaylah Ross (9th and 8th).
“It’s tough for them, in a meet like this, to do that 1,500, then they get a small turn around and run the 800,” Bakalar said. “That was gutsy for some of them.”
Freshmen also fared well in the field events.
Berntson took 4th in the high jump, finishing with a height of 4-feet-8-inches, and Bekah Peterson took third in the triple jump. Peterson also finished sixth in the 60 meter hurdles.
Though there were no awards handed out and state qualification can only happen at an outdoor meet, Bakalar said it was important for the younger athletes to have success.
“For the kids to come to a meet like this and still place, that’s a big thing,” he said. “Some of the bigger meets we go to, they may not make finals.”
Valley City also had plenty of success from its older athletes.
On the girls’ side, senior Molly Willson won the 200 meter dash in 27.53 seconds and took third in the 60 meter dash. Her time of 8.29 seconds was narrowly behind Shanley’s Julia Johnson, who took second place in 8.27 seconds. Tonya Van Dyke took fourth place in the shot put.
For the boys, senior Joey Halgrimson turned in an all-around performance. He took third place in the 60 meter dash, second place in the 200 meter, and won the long jump. Junior Kyle Knutson placed third in the triple jump and senior Paul Viland had no trouble winning the pole vault, beating his closest opponent by nearly a foot and a half.