By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – When a high school athlete competes as an underclassman but falls short of their goals, their season often ends with a thought … “well, there’s always next year.”
This is why anticipation for their senior season is often filled with very high expectations. It’s a time in their young life where they can confidently show that the hard work they’ve been putting in over the past few years of high school will be displayed at their fullest potential, and against competition that is either the same age or younger than them.
Unfortunately, after all of this year’s high school spring sports seasons were canceled across the country, many seniors missed out on that much anticipated time in their lives.
But for three Fall River County senior track and field athletes – all of whom had very attainable goals of medaling at this year’s state meet – “there will still be a next year.”
Edgemont Mogul Lizzy Tidball, along with Thomas Massa and Adam Consoer of Hot Springs, have all committed to competing next year in college track and field at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City. And all three were SDHSAA Academic All-State athletes this year who will also all be pursuing degrees in various fields of engineering.
Tidball, who plans to major in Chemical Engineering, was the first to commit to competing in track at South Dakota Tech. She made it known back in December that she intended to compete at the next level and was leaning toward SDSM&T, because she’s “always had a head for math and science.”
She said she will be thrower for the Hardrockers, which will include both shot put and discus, but also possibly javelin and hammer throw, even though she’s never actually thrown either because it’s not offered in South Dakota’s high school field events.
Despite not qualifying in a throwing event for state last year, Tidball was confident her senior season was going to be different, based on the success that was building down the stretch of her junior year.
Her head coach Joe Martin agreed and said he too had high expectations for her this season, as Tidball was going to be one of six girls returning this season with a combined 15 letters among them.
After finishing second as a sophomore in the Discus at the 2018 Panhandle Athletic Conference Meet, with a season record throw of 100-4, Coach Martin said she missed the entire month of May while facing major health obstacles. She was was able to join her teammates at State as a relay alternate.
Last year as a junior, Martin said Tidball competed in every relay, including the 4x800 where she and her teammates finished third place on four separate occasions, the 4x100 (two 3rd place finishes), and the Sprint Medley (one 3rd place finish).
“Tidball’s most productive athletic years are in front of her,” Coach Martin said. “She was going to have an explosive senior year in the throwing rings for our program, and instead SDSM&T is getting a competitive athlete ready for the experience.”
Martin said Tidball’s work ethic in preparation for her senior season was impressive. “She accumulated perfect attendance in the weight room as a member of our varsity track team. She was a great mentor for younger throwers and older throwers alike, she seemed to know what to say to them that they would be able to understand and execute. She never let a thrower fall behind.”
Her personal throwing records include through her first three high school seasons included a discuss throw of 101-9 at the Region 7B meet in Presho last year, placing her sixth overall. Her best shot put mark was actually set during her sophomore year, when she had a toss of 33-2 at the Custer Invite.
“I enjoyed her gatherings with fellow throwers who were astonished she had to run in addition to throwing,” Martin said. “If I felt like we could steal some points in a track meet, I could usually find a spot to do so, but without Tidball willing to compete outside her comfort zone on many occasions, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The two Hot Springs Bison boys headed to SDSM&T also had very high expectations for their senior spring sports seasons – in part, because of the high level of success they both saw in their senior fall sports seasons. Consoer was the state runner-up in cross country, while Massa was a standout in football this past season for the Bison and recorded a total of seven kick-off returns for touchdowns, as well as two punt returns for touchdowns.
Consoer, who plans to major in Electrical Engineering, will run in Cross Country as well as in the distance events of Track & Field for the Hardrockers.
He qualified for the State Track Meet in the mile last year as a junior, and after such a successful cross country season on the state level this past fall, his expectations for a similar finish this year in track were very attainable.
His best mile time as a a junior was 4:46, which he did at last year’s region meet to make it to state. He said his goal in the one mile this year was to achieve a time of 4:20, which greatly increases your chances for a college scholarship.
However, without the opportunity to hit that mark in his senior year, his chance at a scholarship slipped away, but he’s looking forward to proving his worthiness for a possible eventual scholarship once he starts competing again at Tech.
Massa, who will major in either Chemical or Civil Engineering, said he had always thought about possibly running track in college, but missing out on his senior season solidified the decision and ultimately reach out to Mines’ track coach earlier this month.
His highly anticipated senior season was fueled by what he describes as his most fun and successful football season he’d ever experience. Throughout the fall season, he said he just felt faster and stronger which he knew would translate well to the track.
After the season was canceled, he was very disappointed he said. Not only because of his own missed opportunity but also because of the possibility of more team success this year with 54 kids signed up to be on the team – far more than any other year since he had been in high school.
“It was the first year we were going to have to take two busses to meets!” he exclaimed.
Massa qualified for state in each of his first three years in high school, including in a pair of relays as a freshman and in the medley as a sophomore. Last year as a junior, he qualified in the 200-meters, which is the event he considers his best. However in college, he foresees himself competing in either the 400 or 800-meter races.
“Thomas and Adam would have mostly likely made it back to state this year,” said their coach, John Entwisle, who added that they each would have likely made it in multiple event.s
“This could have been a bigger year for both of these kids,” Entwisle said. “With the added depth to the track team, and it would have given the other track kids a couple of kids to watch and see how Adam and Thomas accomplished their trips to state, by the work ethic both have.”
“Adam, in his own right, finished second at the state cross meet this past season,” his coach said. “That leaves a great deal of what-if’s on the table, as to what each could have done or how many others each could have influenced.”
But despite the ‘what-ifs’ left on the table, Coach Entwisle had some encouraging words for his two former track athletes.
“Set backs are just a part of life and it is from these that you can determine who you will be,” he said. “If everything was a success there would be nothing to learn and for these two kids they will have to learn how to handle situations like this. Not only on the athletic side but also on the academic side.”
“Fortunately, Thomas and Adam are very resilient and I would expect both to go after their individual future goals they way they attacked track practice, leaving nothing to chance.”