Huskies ready to hunt down results in 2023

With 60 High School athletes and an additional 30 to 40 middle school athletes on the team, head coach Andrew Burch to start later than usual to avoid over-practicing and burnout.

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Hettinger's 2022 State Track Meet qualifiers.
Special to The Dickinson Press

HETTINGER COUNTY – The Hettinger County team has a strong track tradition and that means the Huskies are ready to claw their way into the 2023 track & field season. Head coach Andrew Burch said the team has taken a new approach this season, and while most teams have been off to the races since roughly mid-to late-February the Huskies decided to take it easy for a change.

“We actually started just last week on Thursday,” Burch said on March 28. “We got into a problem last year, where we thought it was way too long – a month and a half of practicing and the kids not having any meets – and we never wanted to be in that boat again.”

While the team has 60 participants out among high-school students, and with the middle school they add another 30-40 athletes, Burch said they will be hitting the road soon towards meets in locations with good weather. He is hoping the extra rest will translate into all 100 teammates being ready to roll here soon.

“There were times last year that we went to meets that were four hours away and our administration and our co-op allowed us to do that,” Burch said. “Coming into this year, we just felt like, one: We didn’t want that time delay of practice, practice, practice with no competition – because that’s not track & field – and two: It gave our kids a lot of rest; it gave them a mental break from the performance anxiety or just performing in general after coming off a football season that went to the state playoffs for our co-op and then success at the regional tournament for basketball.”

Among the notables will be senior Sophie Johnson, who placed second in the southwest region in the long jump. “She is a second-year jumper who has the tangibles to succeed at a high level this year,” Burch said, and she will be joined in the pits by junior Anna Nasset who placed ninth in the high jump and sixth in the triple-jump at the state meet last season.


Junior Sophie Olsonawski was a state participant in the 400m and 800m races and Burch said, “she has the grit and attitude of a champion. She’s been turning in great training sessions so far and has clear goals to run at the college level.”

Freshman Ruby Nasset was the SW regional leader in the 3200m run as an eighth-grader and she also will be participating in the 1600m run while the 4x800m team of Olsonawski, Ruby Nasset, Carly Wolf, Jazlyn Ottmar, and Meadow Olsonawski could contend for a top-eight state finish.

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From left, Meadow Olsonawski, Sophie Olsonawski, Carly Wolf, Ruby Nasset of the 4 x 800m relay team.
Special to The Dickinson Press

Other notables on the girls’ team are junior jumper Messa Kuehl in the jumps and sophomore all-region basketball standout Sam Greff in the throwing events.

The boys’ team is stacked with talent as well, with senior Cole Manolovits – who was a state participant in the high-jump, triple-jump and 4x200m team last last year – leading the way. Manolovits started at quarterback and at safety on the football team last season and was the senior back of the year in Region 7. “Cole is healthy this season and we expect to see him on the medal stand at state,” Burch said.

Junior Matthew Huether will be one to watch in the 800m after turning in an All-Region 7 football season, and fellow junior Tallen Binstock is looking to make an impact in the 400m and 300m hurdle events.

The 4x200m team ended up at the state meet last year as well, with Manolovits, junior Noah Madler, Binstock, and Huether all returning to the fold, while the 4x800m relay team placed seventh at state last year. The team is bringing back three members of that team, with senior Justin Kathrein, Huether, Brock Ehlis, and Japanese exchange student Raimu Oyama joining the team.

“Early training sessions are showing us that they will be even faster than last year,” Burch said. “We still need to build chemistry, but we are very excited about this group.”

The coaching staff includes Burch, Ashly Kraenzel, Colton Damjanovich, Taylor Kraenzel, Joanna Slayton, Ryan Upchurch, and Lucas Greff.


One other interesting component to the Hettinger County experience is that the team has no track of its own, so the team has to practice in the gym and through other unique means. "We practice in the gym and we practice on the streets in the town, we throw off of asphalt and the dirt — because we don't have the proper rings or facilities that some of the other schools in our region do — but a lot of us do things that is another style of track & field; it's kind of grass-roots and the nitty-gritty, salty workers of the earth getting after it and trying to do well," said Burch, who is in his third year with the program. "And we've had some success and we think we're putting out a good product."

For more information about Hettinger High School, please visit

Gaylon is a sportswriter from Jensen Beach, Fla., but has lived all over the world. Growing up with an athletic background gave him a love of sports that led to a journalism career in such places as Enid, Okla., Alamogordo, N.M., Pascagoula, Miss. and Viera, Fla. since 1998. His main passion is small-town community sports, particularly baseball and soccer.
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