SENIOR SALUTE: Championship dynasty a small part of what made Lincoln track special

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- There are football schools and basketball schools, and then there is Lincoln.

"A lot of people think of Lincoln as the running school. Track can be an individual sport but I feel like at Lincoln we do a really good job of making it about the team." Lincoln Senior Caroline Sudbeck says.

Where the track and field program has set an almost unprecedented standard of success.

"For the boys we haven't lost a meet in the four years that I've been here. So that aspect of just taking it one meet at a time and winning the meet, and all that adds up to the State (meet)." Lincoln Senior Hunter Merkley says.

Already boasting the most state track titles in state history, the Lincoln boys entered 2020 seeking their fifth straight AA championship, while the girls team was after their fourth in five years.

"We returned a lot of state champions. We returned kids that won seven events. The kids made it special by the fact that they worked hard, they were passionate about track and field, they loved coming out each day, and they loved supporting each other. It was more than just being great on the track, it was great being together with the kids." Lincoln Track Coach Jim Jarovski says.

That bond away from competition is what made these Patriots special....

"Just like bus rides to places and the team camp, being able to talk to everybody there, cracking jokes." Merkley says.

"We had some get togethers with the 400 meter squad and we had some smoothie nights where we'd make some smoothies and just watch movies and stuff like that!" Sudbeck says.

...and what hurt the most when their season was cancelled.

"Just knowing that, like, I didn't even get to practice since last season. It was super disappointing." Merkley says.

The lack of closure has been tough to take, inspiring their coach to give them one last, fitting, tribute.

"Last week myself and a couple other coaches were able to take t-shirts to each senior and just kind of thank them for their time with the program." Jarovski says.

"It was pretty sweet! The saying was 'the only thing to stop a winning tradition was COVID-19'." Merkley says.

"It was tough to take. But I think one of the things it helps to show us is how much we appreciate the sport and how much we appreciate being around these kids and how much we're going to miss this group and how much we're going to look forward to next season." Jarovski says.