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Press Photo by Royal McGregor Bowman County senior Michael Palczewski stands in the bleachers Wednesday at Bowman County Stadium after track practice. Palczewski is the defending Class B 400 meters champion and is committed to run for Dickinson State.

Top Dog in Bowman: Palczewski makes impact as a senior leader while preparing to defend 400 meter title

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BOWMAN -- From the moment Michael Palczewski ran a state-qualifying time in the 400-meter dash as a sophomore, Bowman County head coach Jon Jahner knew there was something special brewing.

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One experience Palczewski had to deal with this season was an injury. He hurt his hamstring at the beginning of the season and wasn't able to come back until May 7 during the Richardton-Taylor Invitational at the Biesiot Activities Center.

He said the winter might have dampened the team's spirits, but it proved to be a positive to allow his hamstring to heal.

"It was really hard for me, because right when I hurt myself, everyone started running faster," Palczewski said. "I wanted to get back on the track so bad. I focused really hard to get back going.

"I had a time to recover, but it was a slow recovery."

As a sophomore, Palczewski was physically built like a cross country runner, but it didn't take him long to build himself into one of the top sprinters in Class B. Going into the state meet, he has the third-best time in the 400 at 50.59 seconds and the sixth-best time in 200 (22.92).

Nonetheless, Palczewski continued to run cross country through his entire high school career, though this past season was a little tougher.

"Returning as the 400 champion everybody (in cross country) asks, 'Don't you run track?'" Palczewski said with a smile. "I got into cross country when I was young and just kept up with it."

Though he is also qualified in the 100, he will forgo the event to compete with his teammates, Colter Braaten, Levi McKitrick and John Yale in the 800 (1:34.28) and 1,600 (3:35.88) relays. Jahner said it took Palczewski about half a second to make his decision to not compete in the 100 on the bus ride home from the Southwest Region Meet on Saturday in Beach.

Palczewski said the state meet is more than about one person. It's about creating lasting memories with his teammates.

"I love running relays," Palczewski said. "We have a blast warming up and stuff. It's nice to have your teammates around you at a state meet. Everybody looks to each other for encouragement."

His teammates are definitely happy to have Palczewski on their team. McKitrick qualified for the 400 last year and he said that wouldn't even have been possible if Palczewski wasn't there pushing him in practice every day.

"Mike pushes us every single day," McKitrick said. "He's a state champion and it's an honor to run with him, because not every team gets that chance."

Braaten said Palczewski brings more to the team than just a fast time. He's a leader that the younger kids are able to look up to.

"The younger kids look up to him, because he's really fast and they want to be like Mike," Braaten said with a laugh.

As for Palczewksi's next step, he looks to DSU to join a strong men's track and field team in the fall. The Blue Hawks have 14 runners attending the NAIA National Championship in Marion, Ind.

"There were a couple guys that told me (head) coach (Pete) Stanton is the best," Palczewski said with a smile. "I took their word for it, but having it close to home really helped."

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