SIOUX FALLS – A break from normal eventually led Marisa Schulz to the top.

Schulz used a different racing strategy at the South Dakota State Track and Field Championships than she is accustomed to, and it paid off.

The Dakota Valley senior doesn’t normally like to jet to the front of the pack during her races, but circumstances Saturday at Howard Wood Field forced her to change her race strategy.

The Sioux City Journal’s Female Track Athlete of the Year won the state title in the 1,600, finished third in the 3,200 and anchored a state championship sprint medley relay to close our her prep athletic career.

Schulz, racing from the front, used a strong final two laps to capture the Class A 1,600, setting a personal best by six seconds with her 5:06.16.

“I started off being boxed in for the whole first lap, I kept hitting toes, people hitting me, it just wasn’t working out,” said Schulz. “After that first lap I kind of went out to (the) third lane on that curve, went out and skipped past all of them. I was not going to deal with that.

“Originally I was going to stay near the front, but I was feeling good so you know what, last race, why not just go for it.”

Go for it she did and the result was a state championship in a race that featured Custer junior Tori Glazer, the state record holder in the 800 and Vermillion junior Maddie Lavin, Schulz’s close friend, and the defending state champ in the event. Beresford junior Cait Savey, the 3,200 champ from Friday, was also in the race as was Chamberlain sophomore Ella Byers, the state cross country champ as a freshman and Hill City sophomore Karlee Simmons, the 3,200 runner-up.

“I just wasn’t going to handle being boxed in,” she said. “I was feeling good so I went for it, which is, I don’t know how I went with it, because I am normally not that type of runner.

“All my competitors really intimidated me because they are great runners. It’s a really great group of decorated athletes, so it’s really scary to run against them.”

The South Dakota State soccer recruit came back to run a 2:17 anchor 800, teaming with senior Anna Rasmussen, seventh-grader Tori Schulz, Marisa’s younger sister, and junior Alyssa Johnson on the winning medley. It was the Panthers' second medley relay title in the last five seasons.

“I was really nervous before my mile, it gave me some confidence that I could run and do very well, especially against those fast runners,” she said. “That definitely, probably, gave me a confidence boost for the medley.”

Schulz had to run the medley prelims on Friday where Dakota Valley advanced to the finals with a 4:20.34 clocking. Morgan Tritz, a freshman, led off on Friday before Rasmussen, the runner-up in the triple jump, led off on Saturday in the finals.

Johnson, the high jump state champ, ran the 400 leg before handing the baton to Schulz in roughly fifth place.

“Everybody on my team ran really good times, it’s just everybody else was running good times too,” she said. “I was expecting her (St. Thomas More freshman Kaci Cooper) to pass me, but I don’t know, I just kept going. I felt good, I just went for it again, one last shot.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen again, it feels amazing just that I could do it again and I ran even better than I had before.”

Dakota Valley’s 4:14.22 winning time was a school-record, one of six for Schulz.

The Panthers, scoring in just five events, wound up fourth in the final team standings, something they did two seasons ago when Schulz won her first individual state title, the 3,200.

“I think that was a great way to conclude my senior year, especially after last year even track season I didn’t do as well there either too,” she said. “Then cross country, having an injury, really throw you off of it, to have a full year of difficult times and not coming out the way I would have liked to completely crush it just tops the cake.”

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