SIOUX CITY | If, in more than 60 runnings, the Sioux City Relays ever had a poster boy or person, it would be Alfred George Kruger III, a loyalist to the sprawling track carnival.

No, not even 1924 Olympic 400-meter hurdles champ F. Morgan Taylor, who never competed in the Sioux City Relays while a student at old Sioux City High School or Grinnell College.

Yes, A.G. Kruger is the king of Olsen Stadium and following are a few reasons why.

You have to witness the geography in person.

That said, the “throws bowl’’ that dips down from the west end of Olsen Stadium proper is configured such that the foot of a steep hill in what you might call left field in the throwing area is approximately 77 meters from the hammer throw ring.

Friday, the three-time Olympic hammer thrower who is seeking a fourth berth in the upcoming 2016 Summer Games in Brazil, took dead aim at 77 meters, an Olympic qualifying “A’’ standard which is 255 feet, 11 inches.

“The left sector of the field at the bottom of that hill is 77 meters and I was just aiming at the hill, no particular distance in mind,’’ said Kruger, in his first outdoor season as the throws coach at the University of South Dakota.

When it comes to competing and now coaching the former NCAA Division II national discus champ at Morningside is perpetual motion, poetry in motion you might say.

After instructing some of protégés – and others – Friday in the university-college women’s hammer throw he tended to some personal business.

Throwing with a wind that had no adverse effects, he won the men’s event with the second-best throw in stadium history to his 253-footer in 2007, a toss of 240 feet, 3 inches (just over 73 meters).

The graduate of Sheldon High School was then back and forth between the shot put area and discus ring to guide his aspiring students of the art at USD.

One of them, shot putter Kyle McKelvey, unloaded a put of 60 feet, 5 inches, to erase his own meet mark by a half-inch.

And, he was busy, too, setting up sophisticated digital equipment to monitor the progress of his student athletes.

Competing unattached as he did Friday, Kruger won his first hammer throw title at the Sioux City Relays as a Morningside collegian in 2002, the first year the event was contested, with a record throw of 214-4.

Since leaving Iowa, he’s been training, coaching and competing out of Ashland University in Ohio, where the state of the art hammer throw coach is Jud Logan.

At Ashland his training partner was and is Kibwe Johnson. The two remain the main rivals to obtain spots on the U.S. team for upcoming Olympics.

“The throw was OK, but I’m just getting started on the season,’’ said Kruger. “I threw just over 73 meters a while back at the Texas Relays so everything is good.’’

At Ashland, he was working with 450 athletes in several sports in strength, conditioning and coaching, but works with around 15 at USD. “It’s a great situation and I’m grateful for USD to give me this opportunity.’’

At Athens in 2004 he was 32nd, 27th at Beijing in 2008 and 25th in London in 2012.

The goal, obviously for the multi-time national indoor and outdoor champ in the 56-pound weight throw and hammer, is to improve those marks.

The U.S. has not produced an Olympic gold medalist in the hammer throw since Hal Connolly in 1956 the top medal since then was a silver by Lance Deal at Atlanta in 1996.

Kruger’ best career mark is 79.26 meters or more than 260 feet.

Hurdling the past (subhead)

Better a little later than never.

Will Hanson, Iowa’s Class 1A state prep champ in 110-meter high hurdles as a junior at Marcus High School in 2009, never lost the will, you might say, to return to competition.

In the here and now all these years later, Hanson is at his all-time best in his final spring of college competition at Southwest Minnesota State.

Friday, he scorched a prelim in the 110 highs in 14.43 seconds, just off the meet record of 14.25, then came back with a victory Saturday in 14.67 seconds.

The 2010 high school grad was a freshman at Wayne State, but felt he didn’t fit, then took two years off to work before deciding to return to school at North Iowa Community College in Mason City.

“I was working in a scrap metal business and that wasn’t any fun so I enrolled at NIACC.’’ said Hanson, who clocked a winning 14.67 seconds in winning his prep title.

He also qualified for Drake as a junior and senior, but missed the state meet as a senior because of disciplinary reasons.

“I got into a little trouble as a senior,’’ admits the finance major. “That’s all in the past. I had kind of life-changing moment a few years ago when two of my Wayne State friends died in an automobile crash. Kind of a wake-up call.’’

At Marcus he become the school’s second individual state track champ, joining 1967 Class B 220-yard dash champ Gary Sanow, who clocked a sizzling 21.8-second furlong bested only by a 21.5 by three-time Class AA champ and eventual Hall of Famer James Kirby of Des Moines North.

First visit (subhead)

Ray Gaul, a longtime official at the Drake Relays and Iowa state prep meets, was attending the Sioux City Relays for the first time.

“Outstanding event just as my nephew (Nick Gaul) told me it was,’’ said Ray, who has lived in Ogden for several years.

He also made the trip for a personal reason. His nephew was named the honorary referee of the 2016 event.

Ray coached at Laurens, his hometown, in the early 1960s and was an assistant boys basketball coach in 1962 when the school finished second in a one-class state tournament with a team featuring future Iowa State cagers Bob and Don Ziegler, 6-foot-6 Dick Mosbach (Air Force Academy) and Willie Grice, whose son David later started on some outstanding Morningside teams in the 1980s.

Noteworthy (subhead)

South Dakota will debut its brand new track facility on the campus basically on the north side of Vermillion in a meet Tuesday.

Coyote track and field insiders are excited that the facility will contain all field events either on or directly neighboring the running track.

Although USD is now an NCAA Division I program, longtime track and field coach and administrator Dave Gottsleben is to be commended for traditionally bringing athletes to the Sioux City Relays since the meet was renewed in 1986.


Sports editor

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