John's Journal: Four Schools, One Track And A Dominant Relay Team
Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland/Southland Girls Own The 4x200
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2023 - 4:12 PM
There were no surprises during the girls 4x200-meter relay at the Glenn Amundson Invitational track and field meet in Stewartville last week. A foursome from the team that has dominated that event on a Class A statewide scale for years won the race easily, as everyone expected.
After anchor runner Anika Reiland crossed the finish line five seconds ahead of the second-place team, she tucked the baton into her waistband. It was a very business-like gesture for a group that has built a business of winning 4x200 state titles.
The team is the GMLOKS Bulldogs, a cooperative group with students from four schools: Grand Meadow, LeRoy-Ostrander, Kingsland and Southland. They are well-known, highlighted by championships in the girls 4x200 at the last four state meets.
If not for Covid wiping out spring sports in 2020, the Bulldogs may now own five consecutive titles in the relay. The GMLOK 4x200 unit finished ninth at state in 2016 and third in 2017 before embarking on their gold-medal run of dominance.
In 2018, the team of Anika Reiland, Emily Hovden, Lauren Buchholtz and Riley Queensland won the state title with a time of 1 minute, 45.12 seconds. In 2019, Anika Reiland, Hailey Hindt, Lauren Buchholtz and Riley Queensland won state in 1:45.27. After missing 2020, the Bulldogs returned to their winning ways at state in 2021, with Anna Oehlke, Hailey Hindt, Chantle Reiland and Anika Reiland winning in 1:44.21, and last year the quartet of Anna Oehlke, Chantle Reiland, Breeley Galle and Anika Reiland again captured gold in 1:44.41.
Athletes have come and gone via graduation, with current senior Anika Reiland owning four state titles in the 4x200, beginning when she was in seventh grade. She placed second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at state last year.
“It's kind of neat because we've never had the same team for more than one year,” Anika said. “It's cool to see the younger people step up and fill those positions when the seniors leave. I think that's super important, to have those younger ones who want to do that and compete hard at practices and meets to fill those spots.
“And the coaches push us super hard, they work with us on starts and handoffs, and then it's just the chemistry between the team, everyone gets along so well. And we all want the best for each other.”
They also compete against each other. Anika Reiland and her cousin Chantle Reiland finished first and second in the 100 meters at Stewartville, Anika won the 200 and Breeley Galle finished first in the 300-meter hurdles. The GMLOKS girls won the team title with 215 points, 44 more than runner-up Chatfield.
Other first-place finishers for the GMLOKS girls at Stewartville were Becca Hoffman in the shot put, McKenna Hendrickson in the pole vault and 800, Katelyn Hauser in the 100-meter hurdles and the 4x800 relay team of Naomi Warmka, Kendyl Queensland, Lauren Queensland and Hendrickson.
GMLOKS junior Lexy Foster, who placed third at state in the shot put last year, is currently sidelined with an injury. The Bulldogs tied for third place in the team standings at state in 2022.
The winning 4x200 team at Stewartville consisted – in order -- of freshman Lydia Redman, sophomore Chantle Reiland, freshman Breeley Galle and senior Anika Reiland. Along with Anika’s four gold medals at state, Chantle has been part of two championships relays and Galle ran on the 2022 title team.
Those three are ready to run for another state championship in June, with Redman the new member as the 2023 season gets going. There are no guarantees about who will be part of the relay team at the end of the season, because those slots will be decided by in-house competition before the postseason.
“We kind of mix and match all season long,” said GMLOKS head coach Aaron Thauwald. “It’s quite a show toward the end of the year because all the girls want to be on the team and we have a runoff right before sections. You’re either faster than someone else or you’re not.”
Anika, Chantle and Lydia go to school at Kingsland in Spring Valley and Breeley is a student at Southland in Adams. Grand Meadow is the only school in the coop with a usable track, so that’s where practices are held. A bus from each of the other schools transports kids to practice and back, and on meet days one or two buses round up the athletes.
‘We just have to wait for everyone to get there at practice, to start warming up and start practice,” said Anika Reiland. “It's just part of what we do.”
“We’ve been very blessed with talent,” said Thauwald, a 2008 Kingsland grad who teaches social studies there. He ran on a school-record-setting 4x100 relay team in high school and also competed in shot put and discus. “A consistent coaching staff has been a huge part of it, and retention and recruiting of athletes from all of our schools,” he said.
In grades seven through 12 from the four schools, this year’s girls and boys track teams have a combined 120 athletes. Half of them were at the meet in Stewartville while others competed at a junior high meet in Lewiston.
“It’s the biggest team we’ve had,” Thauwald said. “And there are only so many coaches and so many running lanes and so many runways.”
Having state-championship experience is important, of course, but so is the motivation of everyone knowing how fast your unit can move the baton.
“There's definitely pressure and it puts a target on our back, especially with new people coming in, like I was new last year,” Galle said. “I was really nervous, especially at state, but eventually it just becomes natural. The whole state experience is really cool, it’s kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“During this race (at Stewartville) I was thinking, ‘Just run like you're at state.’ ”
GMLOKS assistant coach Jim Hubka, who was the head coach when Thauwald was in high school, works closely with the athletes on speed and handoffs.
“We are very fortunate to have some fast girls,” he said. “They buy into the program and my job is trying to keep them healthy and happy and work on handoffs as much as we can. My main focus is speed; we focus on mechanics and all that explosive stuff.”
The competition at meets sometimes is less intense than what takes place at practice, because the Bulldogs work extremely hard.
“I feel like we all push each other to beat each other, and we like each other,” said Chantle Reiland. “We’re always pushing each other because we know it's going to benefit us in the long run. We just want to kind of show ourselves and show everybody else that we know what we're doing and we can continuously get better.”