Noel Reynolds Jr. was excited about the 2020 track season. Not only was the Belgrade sprinter looking forward to competing at the Class AA level, he had hoped to etch his name into the school’s record book.
But following a month-long suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montana High School Association canceled spring sports, including track and field, April 22.
“I was really looking forward to it. I was really motivated this year,” said Reynolds Jr. “I wanted to at least put my name in the record books, at least close to it. I wanted to break the 200 record. It’s pretty far-fetched, but I really wanted to do it. And double A is just better competition.”
Belgrade moved up to AA this school year after more than 30 years in A. Reynolds Jr. was among several athletes who qualified for state in 2019.
The senior earned all-conference honors in the 100 and 200 a year ago, and in the 4x100 as a sophomore.
Those performances caught the attention of the coaching staff at Dakota Wesleyan University, which is based in Mitchell, S.D., and Reynolds Jr. signed with the NAIA program Tuesday.
“The coach told me that in recent years they’ve got the best sprints team,” said Reynolds Jr., who plans to major in either biology or athletic training and minor in coaching. “And they just got a new facility, and indoor track, which kind of caught me because I’ve never done indoor track and I’ve always wanted to.”
Reynolds Jr. competed in basketball for Belgrade during the winter months, including this past season when the Panthers finished 2-18 in AA.
Like many prep athletes seeking to compete at the next level during the conronavirus outbreak, Reynolds Jr. did not get an opportunity to make a traditional campus visit. But, he liked the virtual tour and has already begun workouts provided by the coaching staff.
“I’ve been talking to their coaches for a while and when I finally told them I was going commit to them he (head coach Jamen Helton) gave me bunch of workouts that I could do,” said Reynolds Jr. “I’ve been running a lot of 5K’s, block workouts and regular sprints.”
Reynolds Jr. plans to compete in 100 and 200 for the Tigers, and may do the 400-meter run as well. But, he noted, it’s been a struggle this spring to remain in top form without competition.
“It’s really tough to stay in shape,” he said. “Usually through track season you run every day for school, and now I run like every other day. It’s way tough because it’s hard to stay in shape.”
Dakota Wesleyan University competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and three members qualified for the NAIA Track and Field National Championships to cap the indoor season.